Each R.A. functions as a voluntary and independent unincorporated association. Any resident can become a member without regard to his/her political views. In some parts of the Borough more than 80% of households join their local R.A., receive its magazine or newsletter, and are able to attend meetings.
An R.A.'s chief officers are, typically, a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer who run the committee, with a President who conducts general meetings of members. There is generally an Editor for the magazine or newsletter, and other officers depending on how the R.A.'s work is divided up. There are also ordinary committee members and the full Committee usually meets monthly, with a general meeting of all members once or twice a year. At the annual general meeting officers and the committee will be elected.
As well as its committee an R.A. will have local representatives, perhaps one for each road in its area. These road or zone representatives are responsible for keeping their ear to the ground and feeding through the views or concerns of their local residents, as well as collecting subscriptions and delivering newsletters.
Both borough and county R.A. councillors will attend R.A. committee and general meetings to enable council policy and actions to be explained, questioned and influenced. It is this frequent interchange that distinguishes the workings of an R.A. and its councillors from party-political councillors, where only the party faithful can attend meetings and influence their councillors, and where their councillors may be whipped to toe the party line and ignore the views of their electors.
So successful has the R.A. movement been, that today the Borough Council is constituted by 26 R. A. councillors, 3 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 6 Liberal Democrats. Of the 5 county councillors elected, 4 are R.A. and only 1 Liberal Democrat. Epsom & Ewell is one of the few boroughs controlled by independents in the South-East and, because of the R.A.s, needed a special colour to be represented on the latest The Times map of local government!
R.A. councillors, although all independents, work closely with their own R.A.s and feed through local concerns into the decision-making process. They remain representatives, not delegates.
Most Borough work in done in council committees. There are no shadow political groupings which precede these meetings and decisions are reached after full and free debate. A single councillor can request that a decision is taken by the full Borough Council by making it a "recommendation". Full council meetings are preceded by a private meeting of the R.A. Councillors Group, and other political groupings on the Council hold similar meetings. However, the R.A.-controlled Council has no leader and there is no whipping of councillors. Every one is free to represent his/her and their residents' points of view and vote accordingly. Many debates genuinely sway opinion one way or another with the free vote at the end being the purest form of representative democracy.
An R.A. councillor may of course hold political views on national politics. If he/she is to be nominated for election then those views should be subordinated to local concerns. This has led to a Borough Council which better reflects a cross section of political views than one controlled by a particular party.