Who is responsible?

Councils work through elected members (also known as councillors) who are elected by local people.

  • They have a democratic mandate through being directly elected by local people;
  • they lead on policy and key decision making;
  • they work with professional officers (employees of the council) to secure delivery;
  • they have strong links to local communities;
  • they are elected to serve four-year terms;
  • they represent a ‘ward'; and
  • the great majority stand under a political banner, although there is a growing number of independents.

The whole council (i.e. all councillors) set the budget and the executive takes decisions although some areas of decision making fall outside their remit for example planning and licensing. The executive could be a Leader with a cabinet, or a directly Elected Mayor with a cabinet. The Leader or Elected Mayor allocates portfolios and has ultimate political accountability and councils have to establish an overview and scrutiny function.
Officers are paid employees of the council and encompass a wide range of professions and skills. They carry out a huge range of jobs, from ‘front line' like refuse collection or council tax collection to ‘strategic' like Head of Adult Social Care or Chief Executive.