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Councils manage substantial sums of money which they use to provide services and infrastructure for their communities. Councils are required by law to undertake a range of planning and reporting functions to ensure they manage their finances responsibly. When carrying out their functions, councils are also required to consult, involve and be accountable to their communities.
Each year, councillors are collectively responsible for setting and monitoring the council’s budget. Any decisions to revise a council’s budget or financial estimates must also be made by the council.
When setting their budgets, councils must make financial decisions to meet short-term needs while ensuring their long-term sustainability. This includes the management of revenue (or income), expenditure, financial assets and loans.
Councils are given certain legal powers to raise funds in order to provide services and infrastructure and perform other council functions. They can levy rates from property owners, and levy fees and charges for some services. Other council income includes grant funding from the Australian and Tasmanian Governments.
Councils are required to provide annual reports, including financial reports which provide details about their position and performance. These reports are available by contacting the council. Contact details for councils are available in the Tasmanian council directory.
Similarly, councillors are collectively responsible for setting and monitoring the council’s strategic plans. The types of services and infrastructure councils provide differs between councils depending on its municipal land area, population size, location, number of properties and industry mix.
Good strategic planning helps a council set its future direction and balance the needs and aspirations of communities with available resources. It also ensures that a council can distribute the costs related to planned services and infrastructure fairly over time. This means current ratepayers should not carry all the burden of costs related to services provided in past or future years.
Councils must produce the following planning documents:
Councils review these documents at least every four years, and must consult the community when developing their strategic plan. Each of the plans should be integrated with the others, but have its own focus. Most councils publish key planning documents on their websites.
To find out more about your council’s planning, contact your council directly through the Tasmanian council directory.
Councils are accountable to their communities for their performance. There is a strong relationship between the financial and non-financial roles and responsibilities of a council. The financial performance of a council is dependent on the integration of good financial management practices, sound governance and operational processes.
To help stay accountable, councils monitor their performance against the goals set out in the plan, using monitoring and evaluation tools such as their annual reports.
More detailed financial information is also publicly available through the Tasmanian Local Government Consolidated Data Collection.
An important way councils stay accountable is through the work of an audit panel. Each council has an audit panel that includes members who are independent of the council. An audit panel reviews and assesses the council’s financial and governance activities, including its:
Audit panels make recommendations to the council on strategic and operational matters that require attention.
Find out more about what audit panels do in the Local Government Audit Panels Practice Guide (Local Government Division, 2018)
Each year, the Auditor-General conducts an audit of each council’s financial statements. The Auditor-General analyses financial data to consider the sustainability and operational efficiency of councils. Individual reports are provided to each council with findings and recommendations on areas for improvement. A summary report of key findings and recommendations is provided to the Tasmanian Parliament each year.
The Auditor-General’s reports to Parliament can be found at www.audit.tas.gov.au.
For more information about the requirements related to council finance and planning, contact the Local Government Division:
For more information about an individual council’s plans and reports, contact the council directly through the Tasmanian council directory.