AskDefine | Define councillor

Dictionary Definition

councillor n : a member of a council [syn: council member]

User Contributed Dictionary



Alteration of counsellor, by assimilation with council.

Alternative spellings


  1. A member of a council, commonly a representative elected to a local authority.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

For information on a person who provides counsel or advice, see counselor
A councillor or councilor (Cllr, Coun., Clr or Cr for short) is a member of a local government council, such as a city council. Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, all local authorities are overseen by elected councillors.
These include:
  1. unitary authorities
  2. county councils
  3. district councils
  4. parish, town and community councils
  5. the Common Council of the City of London (where they are known as aldermen and councilmen)
Councillors are typically elected as members of political parties or alternatively as independents. Once elected they are meant to represent all their constituents and not just those who voted for them. They are bound by a code of conduct enforced by standards boards. The 2007 Local Elections in the UK saw the age limit for councillors fall to 18, leading to younger people standing.

Decision making structures

The Local Government Act 2000 established new political management structures for councils in England and Wales. Councils in England and Wales with populations above 85,000 now take one of three forms; elected mayor with executive powers, leader and cabinet with executive powers, directly elected mayor with an appointed council manager.

Councillors' skills

More specialised decision making structures mean councillors are expected to perform a range of different roles, such as; licencing and regulatory decision making, policy overview & scrutiny, executive decision making, political leadership, determining planning applications and community representation.
Councillors also play a wider role in providing community leadership. Enabling communities to help themselves and providing a vital link between the local authority and the communities which they serve. Non executive councillors now have more time to focus on improving the communities which they serve, and play more of a role in developing policy and recommending to the Executive, decisions to be made and holding them to account publicly for their decisions, through the scrutiny process, which provides a platform for real issues which affect communities. Issues which can be raised by fellow councillors and members of the public alike, and for in depth work to be carried out into those issues. A councillor’s role is now one of influence rather than that of power, influencing the decision makers and holding them to account as well as influencing the key stakeholders within their wards. Councillors have a mandate now to lead and identify opportunities for change in a wide range of subjects which affect the communities in which we live, to identify skills and resources within communities and to bring them together for the greater good, this, along with greater emphasis in local government over partnership working with health, police and fire authorities.
The desire for clearer roles and raised standards has been accompanied by an increase in councillor training and development by organisations such as the Improvement and Development Agency, The Local Government Information Unit LGIU and the Local Government Association.


Most councillors are not full time professionals, although most councils do pay them a basic allowance and out-of-pocket expenses. In addition special responsibility allowances are paid to councillors who carry out more senior roles. The basic allowance (and special responsibility allowance) are theoretically paid to compensate councillors for the time spent on council duties. Parish, town or community councillors may, since the Local Government Act 2000 be paid for their services, but most are not.

Regional government

The London Assembly is not regarded as a local authority but a regional devolved assembly and its members are referred to as Assembly Members.

United States

Councilmember, councilman/councilwoman or councilor (sometimes spelt councillor) is a title for a member of a council used in the United States.
In particular, the title is used in the following cases.

Other countries

In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other parts of the Commonwealth, as well as in the Republic of Ireland, a councillor or councilor is an elected representative on a local government council.


See also

councillor in Catalan: Regidor
councillor in Spanish: Concejal
councillor in Basque: Zinegotzi
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