Local Government Explained
Local government is commonly known in Australia as the ‘third sphere’ of government. However, it has as long history dating back to 1840, well before the establishment of the State, Territory and Federal Governments.
In NSW, the main powers and responsibilities of local government are derived from the Local Government Act 1993. Every Council serves a geographically defined community, known as the Local Government Area. It is run by a democratically elected Council that is accountable to the community that it serves. The Council is responsible for leading the development of the local community and facilitating the achievement of community aspirations. This relies heavily on working in partnership with State Government and Federal Government to deliver a broad range of services and facilities. Councils also actively partner with private and not-for-profit bodies who share common interests.
NSW local government has responsibilities for regulating matters, under many different pieces of legislation. However, the core principles governing its functions are set out in the charter in the NSW Local Government Act 1993 to:
- provide directly, or on behalf of other levels of government after due consultation, adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community and to ensure that those services and facilities are managed efficiently and effectively
- exercise community leadership
- exercise its functions in a manner that is consistent with and actively promotes the principles of multiculturalism
- promote and to provide and plan for the needs of children
- properly manage, develop, protect, restore, enhance and conserve the environment of the area for which it is responsible, in a manner that is consistent with and promotes the principles of ecologically sustainable development
- have regard to the long term and cumulative effects of its decisions
- bear in mind that it is the custodian and trustee of public assets and to effectively plan for, account for and manage the assets for which it is responsible
- engage in long-term strategic planning on behalf of the local community
- exercise its functions in a manner that is consistent with and promotes social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights
- facilitate the involvement of councillors, members of the public, users of facilities and services and council staff in the development, improvement and co-ordination of local government
- raise funds for local purposes by the fair imposition of rates, charges and fees, by income earned from investments and, when appropriate, by borrowings and grants
- keep the local community and the State government (and through it, the wider community) informed about its activities
- ensure that, in the exercise of its regulatory functions, it acts consistently and without bias, particularly where an activity of the council is affected
- be a responsible employer.