If a councillor leaves their seat during the course of their term, a casual vacancy occurs. This could be due to the resignation of a councillor, the passing away of a councillor, the disqualification (or ceasing to be qualified) of a councillor, or a failure to take up office.
The rules for casual vacancies are different depending on whether the seat is for the District or County Council, or for a Town/Parish Council.
When a councillor's seat becomes vacant a Notice of Vacancy will be displayed to advertise that vacancy. The notice explains that an election can be called by a request made in writing to the Council's Proper Officer by 2 electors from the Local Authority area. If an election is called it must be held within 35 days of the notice. The exception to this is that if a vacancy occurs within 6 months of the date of the next scheduled elections, the vacancy is carried over to the next elections. The seat will remain vacant during that time and no by-election will be held.
When a councillor's seat becomes vacant the Town/Parish Clerk will notify our Elections Team. The Clerk will display a Notice of Vacancy in the parish area. The notice explains that an election can be called by a request made in writing to the District Council's Proper Officer by 10 electors from the parish area, within 14 working days of the date of the notice.
If an election is called it must be held within 60 days of the notice. If no request is received to call an election then the Town/Parish Council may then co-opt someone into the vacant seat. This means that the Town/Parish Council can choose who they wish to appoint to fill the seat rather than holding an election.
The Notice of Vacancy must run its course before the Town/Parish Council have the opportunity to co-opt a new councillor and this gives the electors of the parish a chance to call an election if they wish to. If the vacancy occurs within 6 months of the date of the next scheduled elections for that council then no election is held, and the seat may remain vacant until it is filled at the next elections, or the council may choose to co-opt into the vacant seat.
If an election is called following a Notice of Vacancy being displayed, this is known as a by-election. This just means an election that is held outside of the normal scheduled timetable of elections for that Council. The date for the election will be set within the timescales set out above. The election is then advertised by the publication of a Notice of Election which marks the start of the election process.