Becoming a councillor in the City (known as a Common Councillor) is both a rewarding and privileged form of public service. It enables people to play a valuable part in the running of the Square Mile, contribute to civic life generally and make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. Unlike councillors elsewhere, the position in the City is a purely voluntary role and it is not remunerated, although there is some help available to cover loss of earnings.
Becoming an elected Common Councillor in the City is similar in most respects to the process for election to a local authority. In both cases, candidates must be at least 18 years of age and a British citizen or a citizen of a Commonwealth or European Union country.
As elsewhere, candidates must then also meet one of a number of other qualifications. As a result of differences in legislation, the qualifications in the City are slightly different from those at local authorities. In principle, and provided those qualifications can be met, it is possible for anyone to stand for election.
In addition to the age and citizenship qualifications referred to above, to be eligible to be a candidate in the City a person must:
- be on the register of voters for City ward elections – not necessarily for the Ward in which the person intends to stand. To be included in the register a person must live in the City or occupy premises, including business premises, as an owner or a tenant. If a person works in or for a City-based organisation, they can also be on the register provided they are appointed to vote by their company or employer.
- own freehold or leasehold estate in the City. In practice, this can be as simple as having a nominal interest in a small space. For example, this could be just a very small part of an office. (It should be noted that while this would make people eligible to become a candidate for election it would not make people eligible to vote in City elections as that requires actual occupancy of the premises concerned.) It is not, therefore, necessary to be on the electoral register in order to stand for election which effectively puts the City on a par with the requirements elsewhere;
- have for the whole of the previous 12 months resided in the City of London.
Candidates for election must also be a Freeman of the City. Many people interested in standing will already be Freeman, but for those who are not, the City will arrange for the freedom to be given immediately and at no cost. The city arranges one or more open sessions for perspective candidates before each local election.