Local councillor

This is a short information page about becoming a local councillor. The aim of this page is to provide further clarification around eligibility, especially if you have been sentenced to a custodial sentence.

It forms part of our information section on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering.

Could you be a councillor?

You can be a councillor as long as you are:

  • British or a citizen of the Commonwealth or EU
  • At least 18 years old
  • Registered to volt in the area or have lived, worked or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election.

You can’t be a councillor if you:

  • Have been sentenced to prison for 3 months or more (including suspended sentences) during the last five years
  • Have been convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court.

If you are already a local councillor and receive a three month custodial sentence or more (including suspended sentences) you will automatically lose your seat.

If you’re looking to stand in an election to become a local councillor, the Local Government Act 1972 (section 80) states that if you have been convicted and received a prison sentence (or suspended sentence) of three months or more in the five years before the election, you are unable to stand in the election.

This ‘5 year rule’ applies even if the prison (or suspended) sentence becomes spent. This is because of section 7 (1)(d) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

For example, in May 2015, you wish to stand for election as a local councillor. In January 2012, you were sentenced as an adult to a prison sentence of 4 months. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, this conviction becomes spent 2 years after the end of the sentence, so May 2014. However, because you have been given a sentence of more than 3 months within the previous 5 years to the election, you are disqualified for that election.

However, the disqualification criteria doesn’t apply to non-prison criminal convictions, nor does it apply after 5 years has passed since the conviction, even if the conviction remains unspent.

Detailed information on becoming a councillor is available at www.beacouncillor.org.uk.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on becoming a Member of Parliament
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.


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