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What councillors do

Councillors have four main roles in what local authorities do:

  • executive decision-making - Councillors attend full meetings of the council, and some councillors may have executive posts in relation to policy making, delivery of services and use of resources.

  • scrutiny of decisions taken by others within a local authority - Councillors may also serve on scrutiny panels or committees - which scrutinise existing policies and service delivery. Such groups may make recommendations to the Council Executive or to full council meetings.

  • regulatory functions - some council committees, such as those which deal with planning and licensing applications, have a quasi-judicial role.

  • representing their ward - representing and meeting with the residents and interest groups within their ward and dealing with issues that they raise. In addition councillors may attend, where appropriate, community council meetings, and serve on forums through which local issues can be discussed between elected members, council officers and the wider community.

From time to time, councillors may also be involved in other areas, such as the development of new policies for the council.

Other organisations

Councillors may also sit on the boards of other organisations where the remit is related to that of the council. This could be collaborative bodies set up by a council to work with other public bodies, Arm’s Length External Organisations (ALEOs) or statutory bodies such as Integration Joint Boards.

Becoming a local councillor

Scottish local government elections are held every 4 or 5 years and if you are interested in becoming a councillor, or just want to know more about what it involves, then the Improvement Service has developed a website called localcouncillor.scot which provides a range of information about the role. The Improvement Service also provides support material for councillors on its own website. There is information about councillors' pay elsewhere in this section.