Julie Matheson

CFP Business Specialist | Local Government Expert | Community Advocate

Role of Councillor

Being a councillor of local government is a privilege and one that I was honoured to do from 2011 to 2019.

Local government councillors are directly elected by the people who live, own property or have a lease in the local Council area.  If a person does not meet at least one of these criteria, they can’t nominate for council elections.


Councillors do not have any authority to act or make decisions as individuals.  They are members of an elected body that makes decisions on behalf of a local government through a formal meeting process.

The elected council has sole responsibility for the performance and functions of Council under section 2.7 of the Local Government Act 1995.

The CEO has no responsibility for the performance of Council under the Act.  The CEO is the Council’s only employee, can employ staff using the approve budget of Council but is not responsible for the performance of staff members or if a crime is committed such as stealing money from a council.

Role of Councillor

Under the Local Government Act 1995, section 2.10 the role of each councillor is to:

• represent the interests of electors, ratepayers and residents;
• provide leadership and guidance to the community;
• facilitate communication between the community and the council; and
participate in decision making processes at meetings.

Key Concept: A councillor is a member of a team, shaping the district’s future in consultation with the community.

Communication:  Councillors represent the interests of all electors and residents. The representational role of a councillor does not mean that he or she has a duty to support all suggestions made. A councillor should consider the varying views of the community and then make decisions in the best interests of the district. (ref: Dept of Local Government and Communities, The role of a council member, 2015 Local Government Elections – Fact sheet 2)

Corporate Governance

Planning for the future: All local governments have to plan for the future, and this process starts with a Strategic Community Plan and a Corporate Business Plan.

The Strategic Community Plan is a ten-year plan which states the aspirations, vision and objectives of the community, and it needs to be developed with input from the community and adopted by council.  Example: City of Bayswater

The local government’s administration then needs to develop a 4 year Corporate Business Plan which prioritises all of the important projects, services and activities needed to implement the Strategic Community Plan, stating how much each will cost, what assets will be involved, and who will implement them.

Managing assets:  All local government services and projects are delivered through the use of assets. Local government assets include everything from roads, bridges, buildings and parks, to computers and telephones.  Although assets are managed by the local government’s administration, council has responsibility for making sure that the community gets the best possible value from its assets.

Governing finances:  Councillors vote to set rates payable by ratepayers (landowners) each financial year.  Rates are determined by the local government’s Corporate Business Plan and Long Term Financial Plan which set out the projects, services and activities that the local government will deliver and how much these will cost. This information is used by council in the setting and adoption of the annual budget.  A rate in the dollar is set and calculated by the Gross Rental Value of a property determined by the Valuer General.

Planning Approval

Elected councillors are responsible for planning their local communities by ensuring appropriate planning controls exist for land use and development.  The do this by preparing local planning schemes and strategies.  Importantly, the Strategic Community Plan document informs planning in a local government.

Most councils delegate planning approval and the preparation of reports to the CEO.  Delegated authority should be audited every two years after local government elections to check planning staff performance against approved planning documents.

Councillor Training

All elected council members are required to undertake training within the first 12 months of being elected.  The Council Member Essentials has five foundation units:

  • Understanding local government
  • Serving on council
  • Meeting procedures
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Understanding of financial reports and budgets

If you would like to read more about the role of a councillor, please click on this link:

2019 Role of a council member from Department of Local Government

2015 Role of Councillors from Depart of Local Government

Former Cr Julie Matheson

Elected from 2011 to 2019

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