Tuesday, 31 May 2022  |  Reading time:  9 mins  | Read online

Skills for new councillors

This week's edition puts the spotlight on councillors, by exploring the key skills they need to perform their roles effectively and how best to support them.

There are more than six million elected members of deliberative local government bodies around the world (UN).

Each year, elections take place in thousands of municipalities globally. This month, major local elections were held in the UK, Nepal, Iceland and the Philippines, while local elections are coming up next month in South Korea, Mexico and Italy.

Local councillors play a crucial, embedded role globally in championing their communities, shaping public services, tackling visible local impacts of pressing global challenges, and upholding democratic values.

However, councillors also face unique and continual challenges, from coping with an overwhelming amount of changing information, to facing a lack of public trust and knowledge about what councillors do, as shown in recent LGIU polling before the UK local elections.

This edition explores how councillors can navigate these challenges to get the best out of their role, plus how council staff can work with them effectively.

We're also sharing the results of a new poll with you. Earlier this month, we asked LGIU members and followers what the three most essential skills for councillors are. Read on to find out what you told us.

If you would like to share a story on our blog or a strategy from your council, fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org.

Have a story to share? Get in touch!

What is the Local Government Information Unit?
We are a non-profit, non-partisan organisation for anyone with a passion for local democracy and finding local solutions to global challenges.
Click here to find out more about Global Local from LGIU

This week's featured content

Resources for new councillors – from getting started to getting results

By the LGIU team

Whether you had elections this year or are already preparing for the next, LGIU has a wealth of resources for you to draw on.

LGIU has brought together resources to help new councillors get up to speed with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference in their community, including insights from former councillors, primers and essential reading on key topics, and targeted training and support.

If you are an officer supporting newly elected councillors – or a recently elected councillor yourself, we want to help you hit the ground running, take a deep dive into the issues and develop your training and skills.

While prepared following the UK local elections, our resources can be used to support councillors and council staff facing similar issues globally.

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Guide for new councillors

Becoming a councillor is an exciting time but can also be daunting – you cannot be expected to know everything straight away – councils, even small ones, are complex. This guide is to help in those first days and weeks.
Click here to read this guide.

New councillor? Get ready to be cared at loudly

John Hart was a councillor for four years in Durham, in the UK. In this article, he shares his inspiration for running and tips for new councillors, as well as the lessons he learnt during his experience. 
Click here to read this article.

Researching the role of the Irish councillor in the 21st century

Ireland’s 949 elected councillors are currently participating in a research project that seeks to document their statutory and representative roles. In this briefing, we look at the process to date and the important messages it may give us about the developing role of the local elected representative in Ireland.
Click here to read this briefing.

Poll results: What you told us

We asked our LGIU members and followers to tell us which top three skills are most essential for councillors to thrive in their roles.

Thank you to everyone who answered – we had 131 responses in total. Here’s what you said:

Listening is the most essential skill for a councillor to have, according to LGIU Members and Followers. Nearly one in four of you judged this to be one of the most essential skills (23.7%).

Along similar lines, communications was voted the second most essential skill for a councillor to have (17.6%).

Strategic thinking was voted as the third most important skill for councillors (16.8%).

These top three most essential skills show the perceived value of supporting and learning from others in the council and community, expressing thoughts and policy clearly, and prioritising long-term thinking.

Collaboration and scrutiny were voted as the fourth and fifth most essential skills for councillors, followed by time management skills.

Some participants commented that the options were all essential skills for councillors to have!

Training series: Training for new councillors

We know that the weeks and months following an election can involve many learning curves for new councillors. LGIU offers an extensive range of online training covering the essential skills councillors will need to hit the ground running and additional programmes focused on how you can take your skills to the next level and beyond.

Upcoming sessions focus on interpersonal skills, questioning skills for scrutiny, time management, and other key skills. 

Policy & Resources

Research & Resources: Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
This Bloomberg Harvard initiative seeks to help equip city leaders with key leadership and management skills through targeted courses for USA mayors and helpful online resources. Available resources include global teaching cases on areas from waste management to homelessness, public value and consultation toolkits, and guides for city leaders.

Guide: Mayor and Councilmember Handbook
This helpful handbook is a clear, accessible and practical reference guide aimed at mayors and councillors. Produced by the Association of Washington Cities and Municipal Research & Services Center of Washington, it is primarily targeted at elected members in those areas, but its helpful Q&As and advice are equally applicable elsewhere.

Case studies: Advice for supporting councillors
The Local Government Association presents strategies and UK case studies about how council officers can support councillors with their wellbeing and safety. To find out more about this issue, you can also read LGIU’s personal safety guide for councillors.

Article: Bridging the Council-Staff Gap
This article by the Canada-based Clemmer Group identifies potential communication and trust challenges that can arise between elected members and council staff. It recommends a helpful five-point strategy to improve understanding, morale and collaboration.

Advice: Tips for new councillors
Experienced councillors were asked to share advice that they would have liked when they started out with the Municipal Association of Victoria, Australia. Their words of wisdom include: “don’t freak out,” “don’t give up,” “pace yourself” and “seek support.”

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we'll be exploring the role of behavioural economics in local government through 'nudges'. 

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

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