Ensure your local government remains sustainable
Sustainability is about local governments maintaining service levels over the long-term without having to resort to unplanned or unreasonable increases in revenue. Many local governments are big businesses and councillors and mayors are accountable to their communities to manage the local government well. Ratepayers and residents expect high standards and transparency in decision making. They expect their councillors to look over the horizon and plan for future. They want to know:
- how the local government processes work over the long-term
- how decisions are made and followed through over the long-term
- if they are getting value for money.
Sustainability over the long-term is more than building the infrastructure of today. It means having the capacity to maintain the level of service for the future. To achieve this, councillors and mayors must effectively plan for the long-term future sustainability of their communities.
If you are standing for election as a councillor or mayor, you need to be aware of the variety and diversity of your local government's business and activities aimed at building sustainable communities. The financial stewardship of local government resources is a big responsibility that requires careful planning by councillors for a sustainable future.
Plan for the future of your local government area
Strategic planning is the formal consideration of a local government's future. Local governments are required to have several planning documents that link together to make up the overall future sustainability plan of the local government.
The plans that must be taken into consideration by councillors and mayors when undertaking local government planning include:
- Queensland Government regional plans (statutory plans) that apply to large regional areas and may include several local government areas, not just your own
- primary infrastructure plans
- planning schemes.
The Local Government Act 2009 requires local governments to develop the following plans:
- corporate plan
- long-term financial forecast
- long-term asset management plan
- annual budget
- annual operational plan.
The planning cycle for these plans range from short-term to long-term (1-10 years). They represent the strategic planning of a local government by defining:
- allocation of resources, capital and people.
Engage with your community
Under the principles of the Local Government Act 2009, councillors are required to effectively consult and liaise with their community members, ratepayers and residents. This is part of being an effective councillor.
The form of consultation depends on the nature and complexity of the issue, the budget for the consultation and how many people are affected. Consultation can be formal or informal, including for example:
- attending public meetings
- meeting with opinion leaders (e.g. industry leaders)
- attending meetings of interest groups or professional bodies
- attending local government conferences
- receiving written submissions
- receiving representations from individuals
- proactively asking various people for their views on council services.
Budget for your local government's financial needs
The preparation, amendment and adoption of the annual budget is a major responsibility for councillors. The operational plan and the budget identify the outputs and financial resources that will be directed towards achieving the outcomes set in your local government's corporate plan.
The annual budget is prepared by the mayor for consideration by all the councillors. Once councillors have reviewed and debated the budget they can make amendments prior to the adoption of the budget. The budget can be further amended during the year if necessary.
Be financially accountable
Each local government's financial statements are audited annually under the Auditor-General Act 2009, the Financial Accountability Act 2009 and Financial and Performance Management Standard 2009.
You have a duty to ensure that all the financial activities of your local government are properly administered, accounted for and reported correctly. The Local Government Act 2009 Chapter 4 Part 4 provides clear direction to councillors about financial accountability.
Report on your local government's activities
Under the Local Government Act 2009 each local government must prepare an annual report that provides a comprehensive account of action taken in relation to expenditure on services, facilities and activities in the previous financial year. The annual report must be published on the local government's website for public access.
This document provides the community with information that can be used to assess the performance of the local government compared with the goals of the corporate plan.
You are accountable for the information contained in your local government's annual report and are expected to respond to questions from community members about the content.
If you are standing for election as a councillor or mayor you should read the most recent annual report by your local government.
Make local laws
The Local Government Act 2009 Chapter 3 Part 1 provides that local governments have a local law making role. Each local government has the power to determine the local law making process. Councillors are responsible to ensure the process complies with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2009 and the Legislative Standards Act 1992. Local laws cannot be inconsistent with other state or federal laws and should only be made when there is no other way to manage a matter.
Councillors adopt the local laws for their local government by resolution at a full council meeting and must publish the local law so the community is aware it has been made. Prior to adopting the local law, community consultation is usually undertaken so the community has the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions. Local governments must also consult with the state government about the local law to ensure it is consistent with existing laws.