Role of Elected Members
As an Elected Member, Councillors are required to present the views of the residents to Council and in turn explain Council policy and decisions to residents. They are thus a bridge between electors and Council residents.
Committees of Council include internal, subsidiary and external committees, boards, associations, and are formed to streamline Council business and make recommendations to Council. The public are welcome to attend and observe meetings.
For a listing of the committees please refer to the Annual Report.
- Attending Council meetings
- Preparing for Council meetings
- Participating in Council committees
- Attending occasional planning days and/or training programs
- Representing the Council on other bodies
The Powers of Elected Members
As an individual elected member, you have no authority to act or make decisions on behalf of Council. This may only be achieved at properly constituted Council meetings.
It is possible to sue an individual elected member if defamation laws are broken. Defamation laws protect people against comments which may damage their reputations. Defamation comprises slander, which is spoken and libel which is written and/or pictorial.
In a Council meeting, an elected member is fulfilling a public duty and therefore the law grants the member limited protection from legal actions claiming defamation. This limited protection may be a defence if statements are made in good faith, for example, believing them to be true. Statements made with malice, recklessly, or by an elected member not caring if they are true or false, are not protected. Statements made by elected members outside of Council meetings do not attract such protection.
A member is not personally liable for the actions of a Council, where a Council is acting in good faith and is exercising its powers and functions under the Act. This means, in those circumstances, the Councillor can not personally be sued by someone disputing a Council action.
Staying in Touch with the Community
- Being aware of the needs and wishes of the local community as a whole;
- Being prepared to initiate new Council policies and activities as these needs change and evolve; and
- Knowledge of the whole Council area.
To keep in touch with electors, Councillors are required to do all or some of the following:
- Attend meetings of local organisations
- Participate in a range of local organisations
- Be available to residents wishing to discuss individual concerns
- Respond to residents when they raise issues with you, by following up any inquiries or complaints which you may receive from local residents
- Read the local paper to keep abreast of local news and issues and
- Stay informed about state and national current affairs which will give you a broader view of issues that may affect Council.
Allowances and Expenses
The Annual Allowance
During the term of Council office, a Councillor is entitled to an annual allowance towards such costs as telephone and postage. This is set by Council and paid in arrears, for example, after the costs have been incurred.
In addition, Councillors are entitled to apply for the reimbursement of prescribed travel, child care and meal expenses, which occur in the course of their duties as an elected member.
Legal Issues for Elected Members
Register of Interests
In order to ensure that their position about an issue cannot be questioned, a confidential Register of Interests is maintained. When first elected, a Councillor must lodge a 'primary return' and then annual returns, which list all of the income sources of the Councillor and family.
Conflict of Interests
As a Councillor, you will have to declare any interest in any topic which may be discussed. A Councillor may not be able to speak or vote on such issues or stay in the meeting room.
Changes to a Council area or wards do not affect a term of office until the conclusion of the next election, thus the Councillor does not lose office if, after being elected, they cease to be an elector for the area in which they stood. The Councillor may be removed from office on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity, or if declared bankrupt or convicted of an indictable offence or becomes an employee of the Council.
For any queries regarding elected members, please contact Council.