Work-life balance damaged as councillors put in 25 hours a week

Local councillors are dedicated to representing their communities but often struggle to maintain a reasonable work-life balance, research has revealed.

The biennial Councillor Census, commissioned by the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA) and the Local Government Association (LGA), surveyed 8,748 councillors in England,

Councillors holding a position of leading responsibility worked at it on average 25.1 hours per week, compared to 18.1 hours for those not holding a senior position. A significant number (13.5%) work more than 35 hours per week – making it almost equivalent to a full-time job.

A significant proportion of councillors also indicated they did unpaid voluntary/charity work (50.2%), acting as school governors (43.4%) or on public boards (29.3%), in addition to serving as a councillor.

Lucy de Groot, executive director of the IDeA, said: “The census shows the incredible commitment that most councillors make to their community. But it also shows how many struggle to maintain a reasonable ‘politics-life balance’, and the workload is likely to put good potential candidates with jobs and families off standing for election.

“We need to find ways to support councillors if the role is to become attractive to a wider range of people, such as people with full-time jobs or family caring responsibilities.”

Most councillors (86.9%) said they were motivated by a wish to serve their community, while virtually all (93.5%) said listening to local people’s views was the most important part of the job.

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