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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Deputy mayor and elected members individually

The role of the deputy mayor is to act in the position of mayor if the mayor is absent, or if the mayor appoints the deputy mayor, in writing, to act in the position.

The functions of the deputy mayor are detailed in section 27 of the Local Government Act.

Elected members individually

The role of an elected member is to:

  • represent the community;
  • act in the best interests of the community;
  • facilitate communication by the council with the community;
  • ask questions and participate in community debate;
  • participate in the activities of the council, including strategic planning, financial and asset management, setting service standards and developing local policies; and
  • undertake duties and responsibilities as authorised by the council.

The functions of elected members are set out in section 28 of the Local Government Act. When fulfilling your role as an elected member you must always abide with the requirements of your council’s code of conduct and you must ensure that you are familiar with the requirements of relevant legislation.

To promote good governance, you should seek out opportunities to interact with the community to gather a balanced perspective on topical matters. You should gather feedback from a cross-section of the community and fairly represent the views of the community at the council table.

Keep in mind, however, that when you are making decisions related to land-use planning and acting as a member of a planning authority (as opposed to a member of a council), it is not appropriate to take into account the views of the community. Land-use planning decisions must align with the planning scheme and must not be swayed by community sentiment. Further details about good governance and land-use planning are provided in section 4.

Elected members are expected to make decisions that require significant expertise. While council decisions are based on expert advice provided by the administration, you can support good governance by seeking out opportunities to undertake training to build your knowledge base and capacity to make good decisions.

As an elected member, you must not: 

  • direct council officers in relation to the discharge of their duties;
  • perform any function of the mayor without the mayor’s approval;
  • request information from the administration (other than the general manager) outside agreed council protocols; or
  • leak confidential information.


SCENARIO9

A councillor strongly believes that a new housing development should contain expensive, environmentally sustainable features. The councillor thinks that her fellow councillors will support the idea if the administration makes the recommendation. She’s been calling the relevant director and various council officers constantly to try to persuade them that the environmental features should be included in the recommendations to council. She’s also attempted to put pressure on them at task group and public meetings.

The administration’s role is to provide ‘frank and fearless’ advice to the council. This should be based on information, consultation and professional opinion. It should not be the result of pressure from councillors. Councillors will expect to be given high-quality, impartial advice and information, which will help them to form an opinion and make a decision in the council meeting. The challenge for councillors, who are pushing strongly for a particular decision, is to persuade their fellow councillors to support their view. They should not try to influence the final decision by pressuring the administration to support a particular view in its recommendation.

To improve governance in this situation:

  • the mayor and general manager need to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of roles – the administration’s role is to advise and implement, the council’s role is to consider the advice and make the decision;
  • the mayor and general manager should provide leadership to reinforce these roles;
  • the mayor and general manager should encourage good relationships between councillors and the administration so that communication does not spill over into undue influence; and

councillors and council officers should be clear that improper or undue influence is against the law. The administration and council need to ensure there are plenty of opportunities (as part of council workshops or in other ways) for councillors to investigate all the available options.

For further detail, refer to the Role of Elected Members information sheet.

The training video scenario A Balancing Act reflects on the use of power and authority in relation to council officers.

9This content has been reproduced with permission from the Good Governance Guide © MAV, VLGA, LGV & LGPro 2012. See http://www.goodgovernance.org.au/