Ordinary election

The cycle of Parish Council elections is four years, and councillors are elected by the block vote system, with voters having the same number of votes as seats on the council, in a secret ballot. Those candidates with the highest number of votes sufficient to fill the number of vacant seats are elected.


Vacancies arising in the Parish Council following an election

Where insufficient members are elected at an ordinary election, but the Parish Council (PC) nevertheless has a quorum, the Parish Council can fill the vacancies by co-option (without the need to advertise the vacancy).

Paragraph 12 of Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act provides that three or one third of the total number of Parish Councillors, whichever is greater, is necessary for a meeting to have a quorum.

 Casual Vacancies and by-elections

A councillor may resign at any time by written notice delivered to the Clerk of the Parish Council. The resignation must be accepted: there is no procedure for withdrawing a notice of resignation once it is made. The resignation takes effect immediately upon receipt, even if some future date has been specified in the letter of resignation.

Other causes of a vacancy  are death, failure to sign the Declaration of Acceptance of Office, and failure to attend meetings for a period of six consecutive months without prior approval of the Parish Council.


To become a Parish Councillor, Part 5 Section 79 of the Local Government Act 1972 requires councillors to be:

  • be at least 18 years old on the day of nomination
  • be a British citizen, or an eligible Commonwealth citizen
  • meet at least one of the following four qualifications:
  1. They are, and will continue to be, registered as a local government elector for the parish from the day of their application onwards.
  2. They have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the parish during the whole of the 12 months before the day of their application.
  3. Their main or only place of work during the 12 months prior to the day of their application has been in the parish.
  4. They have lived in the parish or within three miles of it during the whole of the 12 months before the day of their application.

Apart from meeting the qualifications for standing for election, councillors must also not be disqualified from standing. The criteria set out in Section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972 says councillors cannot stand if:

  1. They are employed by the parish council.
  2. They are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order.
  3. They have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three months or more (including a suspended sentence), without the option of a fine, during the five years before the day of their application.
  4. They have been disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (which covers corrupt or illegal electoral practices and offences relating to donations) or under the Audit Commission Act 1998.

The full range of disqualifications is complex and if the applicant is in any doubt about whether they are disqualified, they should ask the Clerk for help, who can then sign post them to the relevant  information.  It is a criminal offence to knowingly make a false statement on the application as to their qualification for being elected,

Procedure for Casual Vacancies and by-elections

When a vacancy arises in the Parish Council after:

  •  a Councillor’s resignation
  •  death of a Councillor
  •  disqualification of a Councillor
  •  failure of a Councillor to remain qualified,

The process to fill the vacancy is as follows:

  • The Clerk must notify the Returning Officer (via the Elections Office) at Dorset Council of the vacancy. Then either:
  1. The Parish Council must display a Notice of Vacancy (generated by the Returning at Dorset council) informing the residents of the parish of the vacancy. The notice will run for 14 days (not counting weekends or bank holidays) from the date it is displayed on parish notice boards and gives the residents the opportunity to call for an election to fill the vacancy during this period.


2. If the vacancy occurs within six months of the next ordinary elections for the Parish     Council, there is no option to hold an election. The Parish Council may fill the vacancy by co-option.

During the period of fourteen days indicated on the Notice of Vacancy from the date the public notice of the vacancy was displayed, ten electors from the parish can call for an election to be held to fill the vacancy. If an election is not called the Parish Council is notified by the Returning Officer and must fill the position by co-option as soon as practicable.


If the PC  receives a valid notice requesting an election, then:

The Parish Clerk will be contacted by the Returning Officer at Dorset Council (DC) to advise that an election is called.  An election timetable will be sent to the Parish Clerk along with a further notice inviting nominations. The polling day for the election must be within 60 working days of the publication of the notice of vacancy, as decided by the Returning Officer.

If only one nomination is received (or, in the case of multiple vacancies, if only sufficient nominations to fill the vacancies are received), the person nominated will be elected unopposed. (The Parish Clerk should then ensure that the requisite steps are taken in respect of this appointment.)

  • If more than one nomination is received (or, in the case of multiple vacancies, if more nominations are received than there are vacancies), there will be an election.

There is no statutory requirement to give public notice of local council vacancies which remain unfilled after an ordinary election (s.21(2) Representation of the People Act 1985). The Parish Council might at its discretion give public notice of vacancies which arise in these circumstances to encourage transparency and to attract more applicants. The co-option procedure will be as described in this document.


Although the process for co-option is not prescribed in law it is important that all applicants be treated alike so that the arrangements are seen as open and fair. The co-option process adopted by Corscombe, Halstock and District Parish Council is as follows:

  1. The Parish Council will advertise the vacancy (or vacancies) on the Parish Council noticeboards, on the website and other suitable media as required. People considering putting their names forward for co-option can obtain further information on the role of a parish councillor and the procedure of co-option from the Parish Clerk.   Applicants will be informed of the date of the meeting at which the Parish Council will make its decision on the co-option, usually the next scheduled Parish Council Meeting. It is permissible for Parish Councillors (or any parishioner) to approach individuals to suggest that they might wish to consider putting their names forward for co-option.
  2. When an application is received, the Clerk to the Parish Council will consider the application, check that the individual meets the qualification requirements, and confirm that, if successful, they would be willing to accept the Code of Conduct and other obligations of a Parish Councillor.
  3. The Clerk will send out to applicants an introduction pack to include the New Code of Conduct, Councillors Guide and parish council map.
  4. Applicants will be invited to submit a short submission with a brief CV providing reasons why they should be considered for the vacancy. These submissions will be circulated to Parish Councillors before the meeting at which the decision will be made.   Applicants can attend as members of the public.  If applicants are  invited to speak at the co-option meeting, they are welcome to, but are not required to.
  5. If necessary, applicants will be invited to meet with councillors prior to the Parish Council meeting at which the Parish Council will make its decision on the co-option.

There are no special reasons which justify excluding the public during a council meeting, (s.1(2) Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960) when it is making decisions about a matter of public interest such as co-option.

Co-option Voting Process

The person co-opted must receive a majority of the votes of those Councillors present and voting at the meeting where the co-option takes place. Where there are two or more applicants for one vacancy, this rule means that a person must obtain a majority of votes over all the other applicants.

After the Vote

  • The Clerk will notify the applicants of the results as soon as practicable (unnecessary if they attend the meeting).
  • The Clerk will notify the Returning Officer of the co-option
  • The Councillor should sign a Declaration of Acceptance of Office
  • The Councillor should complete the on-line Register of Interest form
  • Successfully co-opted applicants become Councillors in their own right, with immediate effect having signed their Declaration of Acceptance of Office and are no different from any other member. Their term of office runs until the next 4-year election for the Parish Council.
  • As a Parish councillor they will be able to use the title ‘Councillor’ of ‘Cllr’ for short.  They can use this title whenever they are acting or representing the Parish Council.

Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a maximum of four years.  If they then want to stay in the post, they can stand for re-election at the ordinary election.


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