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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Roles and responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of elected council members and a council’s general manager are set out in the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act).

Elected members

Council members are democratically elected by the residents and ratepayers in their municipality. Each council in Tasmania is made up of between 7 and 12 councillors, including a mayor and deputy mayor.

Councillors are responsible for reviewing, debating and making decisions about issues that are brought before their council. Councillors swear an Oath to carry out this role impartially, to the best of their ability, and in the best interests of the community.

The council appoints a general manager to manage its administrative functions. The council is also responsible for reviewing the general manager’s performance.

Councillors

Councillors have responsibilities as individuals and collectively as part of a council. There are several key elements to the role of a councillor, including:

  • representing and acting in the interests of the community; and
  • developing and monitoring the implementation of strategic plans, budgets, policies and programs.

Councillors are not authorised to direct the employees of a council, or to perform the function of a mayor without the approval of the mayor.

Mayors and deputy mayors

Mayors and deputy mayors are directly elected by residents and ratepayers. They must also be separately elected as councillors, and perform the role and functions of a councillor.

In addition to the functions they perform as councillors, a mayor is the figurehead of the council. He or she represents the council in civic duties and acts as the council’s spokesperson. The mayor must also promote good governance, chair council meetings, liaise with the general manager on council matters, lead and participate in the general manager’s appointment and monitor the general manager’s performance.

A deputy mayor may act in the mayor’s role when the mayor is absent, or by approval of the mayor.

Mayors, deputy mayor and councillors have equal voting rights at council meetings. They each have one vote. Find out more about council meetings and decisions.

Councils are a planning authority

Each council acts as the planning authority for their municipality.

In this role, councillors consider development applications and make administrative decisions that are based on the council’s planning scheme. While councillors are obliged to consider the community’s views, this does not mean they can vote in favour of those views while fulfilling the role of a planning authority.

Councillors must make planning decisions based on whether a planning application is consistent with the local planning scheme, even if members of the community object to the planning proposal.

Term of office

Tasmanian councillors are elected for a four year term, via “all-in all-out” statewide council elections.

The most recent council elections were held in October 2018, with the exception of Glenorchy City Council whose election was held in January 2018 as a result of a Board of Inquiry and the dismissal of the former Council in November 2017.

The next statewide council elections are due to be held in October 2022.

General Manager

The general manager of a council is the only staff member who is appointed by the elected council. A general manager is appointed for a maximum 5 year term, but can be re-appointed for further terms.

General managers are responsible for managing council operations to implement the policies, plans, programs and decisions of the council. They liaise with the mayor, provide advice and reports to the council, and help the council prepare and assess performance against strategic and annual plans.

Council staff

Council employees carry out the day-to-day activities of the organisation. Staff have a wide variety of training and expertise to provide advice and ensure the delivery of council services and functions.

Good governance

Governance refers to the framework or systems that enable an organisation to carry out its functions. It covers relationships, policies and procedures, as well as the mechanisms used to hold its people to account.

Good governance is critical for elected members and council staff to successfully fulfil their roles and responsibilities.

The Good Governance Guide for local government in Tasmania (Local Government Division, 2018) is a comprehensive resource and practice guide to help councillors understand and succeed in carrying out their roles and responsibilities.

In the Good Governance Guide, you can find out more about:

  • the characteristics and benefits of good governance;
  • what good governance means in practice – including ethics, building positive relationships, strategic planning, performance monitoring, risk management, decision‑making, compliance and continuous improvement; and
  • good governance and land use planning.

Code of conduct

Since 2016, councils have adopted standard or ‘model’ codes of conduct that are made and published under the Act.

A council’s code of conduct sets out the standards of behaviour expected of councillors in all aspects of their role. It covers areas such as decision-making, conflicts of interest, use of office, resources and information, gifts and benefits, relationships and representation as a councillor.

Councillors must comply with the provisions of their council’s code of conduct while performing the functions and exercising the powers of their official role with the council.

Any person can make a complaint about a councillor if they believe there has been a breach of the council’s code of conduct. Such complaints are handled by an independent code of conduct panel (contact details are found below).

You can find out more about your council’s code of conduct by contacting your council directly via the Tasmanian council directory.

Resources and related information

  • Code of conduct
  • Council elections
  • Council meetings and decisions
  • Good Governance Guide for local government in Tasmania (Local Government Division, 2018)
  • Local government legislation

A range of additional resources for elected members and council administration can be found at the Local Government Division’s Resource Page.

Contact the Local Government Division

For more information about the roles and responsibilities of councillors or general managers, or the Good Governance Guide, please contact the Local Government Division:

  • phone 03 6232 7022
  • email lgd@dpac.tas.gov.au
Contact your council

For more information about your councillors and your council’s code of conduct, contact your council directly via the Tasmanian council directory.

Contact the Code of Conduct Panel

For more information about the local government code of conduct framework or to make a complaint about councillor conduct, contact the Local Government Code of Conduct Panel:

  • phone 03 6232 7013
  • email lgconduct@dpac.tas.gov.a