What does a Councillor do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A councillor is an elected official who serves as part of a governing council on a local level, like a city or town council. Councillors have a number of job responsibilities related to their work and also play roles as civic leaders, providing guidance and assistance to members of their communities when they are not actively working. In many cases, the job is part time, with people being compensated for meetings and some time in the office, but not working full time for the city, town, or other municipality that elected them. While the word "councillor" is predominant in the United Kingdom, "councilor" or "councilmember" is preferred in the United States.

Each councillor is expected to review a variety of material relating to proposed ordinances, requests for licenses like business or event licenses, and so forth. Councillors can also bring proposals to the council, including resolutions to vote on, as well as new proposed ordinances. They are often supported by staff members who help with research, drafting communications, and so forth. In some regions, a councillor has the power to appoint other municipal personnel, such as members of a local planning commission.


No specific education or training is required for this type of work. Good communication skills are very helpful. A councillor may have experience as an attorney, police officer, or city government worker, and this can be helpful for understanding how government works and identifying individual needs of a municipality. Councillors also need to be able to develop and maintain relationships with constituents, counting on them to vote in future council elections.

The power of the council can be extensive on a local level, with a variety of kinds of decisions passing through the council. While a councillor cannot contravene law on a higher level, such as writing a city ordinance that conflicts with a county one, councillors can do things like censuring other public officials or passing resolutions to protest government activity on higher levels. They can also provide constituents with information on how to reach other offices and elected officials if the constituents bring a matter to the council and it is not qualified to deal with it.

Working as a councillor usually requires serving for a set term, and people can choose to run again or step down when they are done serving. On some councils, the chair's seat is rotated, and each member of the council will serve at last briefly in a position as the chairperson or mayor. A knowledge of the rules of procedure for meetings is needed, although new councillors are often provided with some guidance at first.


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