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Community councils

Office bearer roles in a community council

There are four key roles in a community council:

  • chairperson and vice chairperson
  • secretary
  • treasurer
  • elected community council members

Chairperson and vice chairperson

The chairperson has the most important role to play in making sure that the meetings run smoothly. Even a good chairperson will find the task exhausting unless the role is respected by all members.

The chairperson is elected in line with the rules set out in the constitution. The secretary should be able to provide you with a copy.  The constitution is very important because it sets out the procedures that govern the work of your community council.

The chairperson's role is to make sure that decisions are taken on all of the items that are on the agenda. This usually means that they have to make judgements about how much time to spend on each agenda item. It also means that they may sometimes have to bring speakers back to the agenda and encourage people to make their contributions short and to the point.

The chairperson should:

  • encourage fair play
  • stay in charge
  • remain neutral
  • control the agenda and time keeping
  • introduce agenda items one at a time
  • be familiar with and introduce all agenda items
  • have an overview of the tasks of the meeting
  • help to clarify tasks
  • take responsibility for what it wants to accomplish
  • help the group to carry out its tasks
  • run through the agenda at the beginning to prepare the meeting for business
  • arrange in advance for members to take ownership of some items
  • keep track of the time and summarise the meeting at the end


To be successful, a community council must have an energetic and conscientious secretary prepared to put in the necessary time and effort. 

It may be helpful if some duties can be given to other members to allow the secretary to concentrate on their main duties. Examples include appointing a dedicated minute taker for the meetings, assigning a member to liaise with the press and media, or setting up sub groups to deal with grant applications or newsletter production. 

It can be become a problem if the secretary is overloaded with too many duties and you may find it difficult to find volunteers in the future.

The secretary is generally responsible for:

  • the agenda
  • the minutes of the meeting
  • answering all correspondence
  • writing any letters
  • circulating information to members
  • public relations, dealing with the press, TV and radio
  • looking after visitors
  • arranging the venue for meetings
  • liaising with council officials
  • supporting the chairperson and providing (or getting) legal and other advice


The treasurer is responsible for issuing all cheques and making payments. The treasurer must:

  • manage the bank account
  • account for all funds received
  • make sure money is only spent in a manner approved by members as recorded in the minutes

The treasurer must keep the financial records so that they can disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the community council.

All cheques should be signed by at least two persons authorised by members as recorded in the minutes. This should be notified to the bank in writing. As a general rule, a treasurer should avoid paying out money except by cheque. This makes it easier to account for any expenses.

The treasurer must keep proper accounts of all receipts and expenditure, and prepare an annual statement of accounts. At the end of the financial year all community councils are required to submit their accounts and records for Audit.  We will write out to each community council with the relevant details.

The statement must be formally approved at the next annual general meeting when the treasurer must report and answer questions raised by members or the public.  The certified and approved accounts are a condition of the annual administration grant process.

The treasurer should also prepare simple budgets to advise members before they commit any funds.


Elected community council members

Members of a community council are elected by the local community.  Even if, due to a shortage of nominations, your 'seat' was uncontested and no actual election took place, the constitution allows for your nomination and election. If properly nominated by two local residents who are on the electoral register, you are as much elected as you would be in the case of a contested election.

As a member you may attend meetings, speak and vote, as of right.  You serve for the term allowed by your constitution. As a member you should represent all the community, not any specific group. However, it is inevitable that different members will have particular areas of interest. Such diversity can add to the collective strength of a community council.

Most community councils invite community police officers and others, such as council officers, to attend and speak to the meeting by special invitation. Such 'guests' can make an important contribution to the meeting.

As a new member it is important that you understand the role you will play in your community from the start. This means not simply offering your own views and opinions on local issues, or taking decisions that are based only on your own self-interest.

As a member, you need to represent the views of your community. This involves discussing issues with people in the community in order to clarify their views and measure the strength of their feelings on different topics.

At some point you may find some conflict between your personal views and interests and those of the community that you represent. If such a situation does arise, try to make sure that the views of the community take precedence.

Experience shows that if the views of individual members are allowed to take precedence then the wider community will very quickly lose confidence in the community council and its work may be devalued.

The task of any community council is to identify the needs and aspirations of its community and to take decisions that will lead to appropriate action in that community. At some point, this might involve setting priorities on the competing or conflicting needs of different sections of the community. This means taking a balanced view of your community's needs and aspirations and giving a fair hearing to representatives from different interest groups in your community.

Page last updated:
14 Sep 2020

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