One in every eight places on Herefordshire’s parish and town councils are currently unfilled, according to Herefordshire Council, the county’s electoral services authority.

There are 133 parish and town councils across the county – plus a further four “parish meetings” serving smaller areas. These are made up of 1229 councillor seats in total, of which 1079 are currently filled, leaving 150 vacancies.

The problem appears worse in small rural parishes than in towns. Among the five main town (and one city) councils,

  • Hereford City Council has a full complement of 18 councillors;
  • Leominster Town Council has all its 16 councillors (four for each of four wards);
  • Bromyard and Winslow Town Council has two vacancies out of a total of 18;
  • Ledbury Town Council has five vacancies out of 18;
  • Ross-on-Wye Town Council has all its 18 councillors, across three wards;
  • Kington Town Council currently has 14 out of 15 councillor positions filled.

Ledbury’s deputy mayor Phillip Howells said: “We had nine vacancies at one point, but have had some success addressing that through advertising.

“But the fewer there are of you, the harder it is for meetings to be quorate” – that is, to have enough members present for decisions to be official – “which we haven’t always managed”, he added.

And while there may be problems with individual councils, there is a “more general malaise” in local democracy, not helped by the attacks that councillors are now subject to through social media, he said.


Vacancies can often be filled by co-opting new members – that is, by existing councillors voting them on, rather than their being elected by the public.

Generally the posts are unpaid, though different town and parish councils have different policies on members’ expenses and whether senior members receive an allowance.

Recent research by the Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group found that they county has more than twice as many male parish councillors than females, and that seven parish councils had no female members at all.

Neighbouring Shropshire Council had 281 unfilled seats at the time of elections last April – thought to amount to a fifth of all seats in the county.

Herefordshire is unusual in that its entire area is represented by parish councils. They are generally absent from larger urban areas, and in all represent areas with less than 30 per cent of England’s population.