Training for new council members

Council members debate in the council chamber
A busy council meeting

The elections on 7th May had a major effect outside that of the unexpected result at National level. Because the local elections for District Councils and Parish Councils were held on the same day, the vote at these local elections was much higher than normal. As a result, many local council seats changed hands as the electors who might have normally stayed at home for a local election came out in droves.

279 Councils held elections on 7th May and the Conservatives gained 541 seats, UKIP gained 176, the Greens gained 10 and Residents 2 so many new Council members were elected. Many councils use their own training officers for the mandatory training that the new Councillors need for matters of policy, procedures, standing orders, committee structure etc. However, in order to be a successful council member there are a number of new skills that the new councillor needs to suddenly develop.

For example; public speaking skills may need to be developed. Most councils impose a time limit of no more than 5 minutes in order to make a speech in full council meetings or committees. Many new councillors (and many old ones too!) struggle with being able to make their points succinctly and with relevance in the time available. Many are nervous in the unfamiliar environment and struggle to overcome this. Nelson Training have developed a novel approach to help here by using the skills of a professional actor to help with nerves and developing the voice combined with an expert facilitator who can help councillors structure the points they want to make in the time they have to make it.

Another area that both new and old council members struggle with is chairing and meeting skills. Here, Nelson Training use actors to role play both the meeting chair and the participating councillors. The action is often so realistic that all the councillors present join in the scenario. Full council, committee meetings, scrutiny panels and public meetings are all covered.

Equality and diversity and the legal implications of the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty are another area where our drama based approach has had real success. Being able to portray scenarios of relevance using comedy and drama gets over the impression that some new council members have that ‘it’s all political correctness gone mad’. It’s a light hearted approach to a serious subject that gets the point across on the legal aspects and the effect on council policies. It’s a painless way of illustrating the importance of demonstrating equality impacts rather than viewing it as a tick box exercise.

Most of our workshops are 2-3 hrs. We don’t use PowerPoint bullets and we never bore anyone with long lectures. Everything is interactive, fast paced, and relevant.
As well as the subjects discussed above, we also run training for council members new and old in

  • Overview and Scrutiny and
  • Questioning Skills
  • Handling the media
  • Handling difficult constituents
  • Juggling time for Councillors
  • Running successful surgeries
  • Influencing Skills
  • Running ward forums

Full details can be found on: