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Councillor vacancy procedure

Vacancies for a parish or town councillor can occur between scheduled elections either through resignation, disqualification, failure to take office or death. This step-by-step guidance has been produced to assist clerks and navigate the various steps that need to be followed in such instances.

  • More than 6 months to the next scheduled parish and town council elections
    The vacancy should be advertised as soon as practicable following the vacancy occurring. If there are more than 6 months between the vacancy and the next scheduled parish and town elections, you should continue to step 2.
  • Less than 6 months to the next scheduled parish and town council elections
    If there are less than 6 months to the next scheduled parish and town elections, the vacancy remains unfilled. You should inform Electoral Services of the vacancy and not continue with this guidance. Electoral Services will offer you further information and guidance in this instance. 

Maintaining a Parish Quorum

If the vacancy brings you below your quorum, or close to it, you must inform the Proper Officer and Monitoring Officer by email to [email protected].

  • The parish/town clerk advertises the Public Notice of Vacancy as soon as practicable, using the template and following the accompanying guidance notes. The template and additional notes are available within the resource library.
  • If the vacancy has occurred due to the death of a serving councillor, there is no prescribed period of time between the death occurring and vacancy being advertised. However, it is common practice for clerks to observe a respectful period before advertising the post. In most cases this is until after the funeral of the deceased councillor has taken place.
  • Once the Public Notice is completed and before advertisement of the vacancy, the parish or town clerk should email a copy of the completed Public Notice to [email protected]
  • Electoral Services will write to the parish or town clerk acknowledging receipt of the notice. Electoral Services will also make note of the expiration date of the notice. The completed notice can be typed or handwritten. 

  • Parish and town clerks may be asked by electors to provide a signatory form to complete. There is no legal form and Electoral Services will accept any document that clearly states the signatories are requesting an election for the vacancy. However, we have produced a pro-forma that can be utilised in such circumstances. The form is available in the resource library.
  • If a clerk is aware that signatories are being collected, please advise [email protected] so that we can prepare to receive the completed document or answer any enquires relating to its accurate completion. Continue to step 4.  

Upon the conclusion of the 14-day period, one of two possible scenarios will occur:

  • Scenario 1 - No valid requests received to hold an election within the specified 14-day timeframe 
    The parish or town clerk will be informed in writing that they may proceed to co-option by the Proper Officer or a member of the team. The parish clerk provides the co-opted councillor with the appropriate paperwork and sends completed Declaration of Members Interest forms to [email protected]. The appropriate forms for completion can be found on the NCALC website within the ’documents’ section. 

    If there is no immediate suitable candidate proposed for co-option, parish/town clerks should contact NCALC for further advice on the process regarding re-advertisement of the post. Parish/town clerk’s should also inform Democratic Services that the vacancy has not been filled through co-option and remains vacant. In cases of scenario 1 applying, you do not need to continue further with this guide.
  • Scenario 2 – A valid request to hold an election is received by the Proper Officer
    If within the 14-day advisement period, a valid request for an election is received, Electoral Services will write to inform the parish/town clerk. Continue to step 5. 

  • Following confirmation that a valid request for an election has been received, an arranged date for an election which is preferable to the Returning Officer, will be decided. The date must be within 60 calendar days of the Notice of Vacancy.
  • Once the date has been agreed, the clerk will be sent a Notice of Election which should be displayed within the parish or town (for example, notice boards, website, newsletter/magazine publications). The Notice of Election will also be displayed at West Northamptonshire Council Offices. The notice will detail the final date, time and relevant office for the completion of nomination papers.
  • Potential candidates may approach parish or town clerks for a nomination pack. Further guidance and templates are available within the resource library. Templates and comprehensive guidance is also available on the Electoral Commission website. The nomination process is covered in greater detail on the relevant webpage page. Continue to Step 6. 

Following the Nomination period, one of two possible scenarios are possible:

1. The Returning Officer receives more valid nominations than the total number of vacancies available within the parish council; Poll held to determine successful candidate(s). 


2. The Returning Officer receives less nominations than number of vacancies available – Candidate(s) elected uncontested. Parish and town clerk’s should then revisit the guidance detailed in Step 3 regarding completion of appropriate paperwork for the new Councillor. 

Last updated 17 July 2023