Democratic Services Officer

Today, local authorities are determined to give people the kind of service they feel they deserve as council taxpayers. In order to achieve this, councils are encouraging greater public involvement and participation.  The democratic services officer is at the heart of this drive and the post can be found in all types of authority. Where the specific post does not exist, similar functions may be carried out who try to ensure that the council is giving the public value for money.

Work Environment
This is mostly office-based but, as a member of a standing committee, there will be meetings to attend both internally and externally. The officers are required to attend public meetings such as town centre forums, partnership board meetings and other standing committees. Local authorities see this post as essentially that of a committee officer but with more duties and influence.  You would work the usual council hours - 37 per week, although there may be times when additional hours would be needed to meet specific deadlines and timetables. Flexible working arrangements, a car allowance and other travel benefits are available in some authorities.

Daily Activities
The main purpose of the job is to provide administrative and managerial backup to the democratic services manager who is empowered to ensure that the council functions in an open and accountable way. This means advising council committees and working parties on correct procedures, relevant legislation and interpretation of standing orders - what can and cannot be done - notifying them of decisions taken and action to be followed. There is a great deal of committee work and 'political' negotiation with a responsibility for setting up meetings, educating officers, members and external bodies about what it means in detail to run a democratic local government system. This will entail close working with the managers of town centres who have close contact with members of the public and meet their grievances head on. Officers will also service meetings of quasi-judicial bodies such as those called to look at education admission appeals - where parents concerns about what schools their children have been allocated to attend or are excluded from are considered. The democratic services officer gives advice to these bodies in accordance with relevant legislation, internal procedures and natural justice. Within this, there are other specific duties, which include:

  • developing a detailed knowledge of local government administrative law; 
  • preparing reports of committee outcomes for the Chief Executive; 
  • researching and preparing replies for signature by the Leader of the Council, the mayor and others; 
  • encouraging public and stakeholder involvement in town centre forums; 
  • monitoring understanding of the democratic functioning of the council; 
  • developing new ways of getting the community involved; 
  • taking part in initiatives linked to performance regulation and efficiency. 

Skills & Interests
To be competent at this job you would need to be able to:

  • show enthusiasm for public involvement in local decision making; 
  • work equally well with the formal committee process and with wider partnership groups involving the public and other stakeholders; 
  • work in a team; 
  • build effective working relationships with a diversity of individuals and groups; 
  • communicate effectively, both orally and in writing; 
  • inspire confidence; 
  • analyse and evaluate well, drawing logical conclusions from complex information; 
  • apply new technology; 
  • demonstrate resilience and stay effective in stressful conditions; 
  • respect and promote diversity; 
  • exercise political awareness; 
  • demonstrate first class administrative skills; 
  • work with word processing and e-mail systems.

Entry Requirements
A minimum of 2 A Levels (Grade A - C) are essential.  Experience in local government - in drafting letters, reports, servicing committees, working parties - is required. You would be expected to be a good meetings administrator. You may also have ICSA qualification or equivalent.  Qualification and non-qualification training is given both in-house and via external short courses.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
In today's political climate (which also reflects the requirements of EU legislation) the public expects recognition of its rights and consequently the state has increasing obligations. This area of work offers many opportunities for advancement. The transferable skills gained from this role mean senior posts become a viable career path. 

Further Information & Services
Chartered Management Institute
Institute of Administrative Management

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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