Taking your oath
Once elected as a councillor you must not act in the office of councillor until you make the declaration of office in the form prescribed in the:
- Local Government Act 2009 - section 169 – obligations of councillors before acting in office
- Local Government Regulation 2012 - section 254 – the declaration oath.
You must make your declaration within one month of your election or appointment. This is usually done at the post-election meeting of the local government which is held within 14 days of the conclusion of the election. The chief executive officer of the local government is authorised to conduct the taking of the declaration. An official record of the declarations is kept.
The post-election council meeting
Your local government must hold a meeting within 14 days after the conclusion of the election. At the meeting your local government must consider:
- appointing a deputy mayor from the elected councillors
- times for holding future meetings.
Your local government may also consider:
- whether standing committees will be established and appointment of councillors to them (usually larger regional and city councils have committees)
- appointment of representatives to other statutory bodies or special authorities.
For more information refer to the:
Registering your interests
Once you are a councillor you are required to make all your activities and financial interests publicly known. You are also required to declare the interests of people related to you, including your children. The register of interests is kept so the community can have confidence that decisions being made by their local government are in the public interest and are not made for the benefit of councillors or their relatives.
A person is related to you if they are:
- your spouse
- someone who is totally or substantially dependent on you including:
- your children
- someone whose affairs are so closely connected with your affairs that a benefit derived by that person, or part of it, could pass to you (e.g. your parent or ward).
The Local Government Regulation 2012 requires the chief executive officer maintain a register of the financial and non-financial interests of each councillor and senior executive employee and their related persons. Likewise the mayor must keep a register of the interests of the chief executive officer and his/her related persons.
Your register of interests can be viewed by the public at the council office or on the council website. A register of interests of related persons is not usually open to public inspection.
You are required to complete the prescribed form for the register of interests for yourself and your related persons and lodge it with the chief executive officer within 30 days of the commencement of your term as councillor. You must make sure you keep your register of interests, and your relatives' register of interests, up to date. There are penalties for failing to do this.
For more information see:
- Councillor responsibilities under the Local Government Act 2009 ( 347 KB)
- Local Government Regulation 2012 – sections 289-297.
How to behave in the council chamber
As a councillor you need to be aware of the importance of observing your local government's meeting procedures. The decisions made in local government meetings are important and must be made in accordance with the correct meeting procedures that are adopted by your local government. All councillors must observe the principles of section 4 of the Local Government Act 2009 at all times.
Local government meetings are conducted in a formal manner but the level of formality may vary, depending on the size and traditions of your local government. For example:
- Brisbane City Council is very large and its meetings have an independent chairperson. It uses formal parliamentary rules of debate with the Lord Mayor and the governing councillors on one side of the chamber and the opposition councillors and opposition leader on the other side.
- Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council is small with four councillors and a mayor. They sit together at a table where the mayor acts as chairperson and debate is more informal.
Despite variations in debate and meeting procedures, all local government decisions must be made by resolution, recorded in the minutes and implemented in the same way.
The chief executive officer of each local government will have information for you and other new councillors on how your local government's meetings are conducted and how to behave in the chamber. It is important that you read the information provided and the relevant legislation prior to your first council meeting.
Getting started on your work as a councillor
It is important to realise that there will be a wide range of issues for your local government to consider. Newly elected and returning councillors may have particular issues they are anxious to deal with. However, councillors must represent the overall public interest of the local government area so it is important to understand that there will already be a planned schedule of issues to be debated and determined by the local government.
These matters will have been previously identified and relate to the goals/outputs of the local government's five year corporate plan and annual operational plan which cannot be changed simply by the election of a new local government without due process. Newly elected councillors will be required to undertake and carry on this important work as well as bringing their new issues forward for consideration.
In city and regional local governments there are local government committees that provide the opportunity to explore particular issues in detail. The role of these committees is to work on specific matters such as finance and budget, parks and recreation, roads and transport infrastructure and so on. If you have a particular interest you may wish to serve on a committee dealing with your area of interest and expert knowledge. Councillors are elected to these committees at the post-election meeting of the local government.
Your primary responsibility and accountability as an elected councillor is to your community and your local government's decisions must be made for the benefit of the entire local government area. If you represent a division you must also ensure that decisions benefit the whole area and not just the interests of the division you represent.
How your councillor remuneration is determined
Councillors are eligible for an annual amount of remuneration, reimbursement of eligible expenses and other entitlements as determined by the local government. The Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal, established under the Local Government Act 2009, is an independent body that makes decisions on the remuneration for mayors, deputy mayors and councillors.
Every year the tribunal must decide the maximum remuneration payable to councillors, mayors or deputy mayors in each category of local government (section 244, Local Government Regulation 2012). This decision must be made before 1 December.
In making its decisions about the remuneration to be paid to mayors, deputy mayors and councillors, the tribunal considers:
- Local Government Act 2009 provisions about the entitlements and responsibilities of councilors
- community expectations about what is an appropriate level of remuneration in the circumstances.
Local governments must, within three months of the tribunal's determination, resolve to pay their councillors an amount no more than the maximum determined by the tribunal.
If the local government does not set an amount, they receive the maximum amount by default. This is payable to councillors from 1 July each year.
In addition, the tribunal reviews and sets categories for each local government. These categories determine the level of remuneration you receive according to which local government you are part of. The tribunal uses criteria including local government size, population demographics, cultural diversity, geographical location and environmental terrain, to inform their decision.
There are currently nine categories of local governments with category one the lowest and category nine the highest. Councillors of local governments in category three and below have part of their remuneration tied to council meeting attendance. To access the current remuneration of your local government go to the most recent annual report of the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.
Councillors are also entitled to reimbursement of expenses and provision of facilities to carry out your council work. You can only claim expenses for matters that are expressly catered for in your local government's expenses reimbursement policy. Local governments are required to adopt the policy and publish it on their website. Claims for expenses of a private or political nature are not acceptable.
Your time commitments
The amount of time that a councillor is expected to spend on local government business and meetings varies widely depending on the:
- size of the local government
- geographical location
- role the councillor has.
In some local governments the role of a councillor is a part-time one while in others it is very time consuming.
In all local governments a councillor is expected to attend all the monthly local government meetings. Each meeting has an agenda and usually there are reports prepared that relate to the topics on the agenda. You should spend time reading all the reports and material provided with the agenda prior to each local government meeting.
In addition you may have particular committee responsibilities or portfolios that require attendance at meetings, research and investigation. Attending civic occasions and other important functions is also part of being a councillor - particularly for mayors and deputy mayors.
You may find it useful to talk to existing councillors in your local government to get an understanding of the time commitment required by councillors in your area. You could also talk to the local government's chief executive officer about the time commitments of councillors in your local government.
Where you can get more information
About specific local governments
The website for each local government has information about their particular area and the important issues for the local government.
About local government roles and responsibilities
- Councillor responsibilities under the Local Government Act 2009 ( 347 KB) produced by the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.