CEO Observation - The Role of Councillors

Published on 18 December 2017

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I have read with interest the commentary in recent weeks by residents on their views on what a Council should or should not be involved in, with issues such as gender equality, fruit fly, water management and domestic violence among those to trigger strong reactions from some people.

I respectfully point out that with very little research people could be better informed and not so biased in their world views.

Local Government has never been restricted to just being involved in Roads, Rates and Rubbish.

Local Government achieves its best results through listening to the community, acting as a voice for residents and through effective relationships.

In my view, Mildura Rural City Council has many, many functions and activities that Council and Councillors support that go well beyond simply providing services to the community.

Yes, Councillors have critical roles in the governance [ethical decision-making] of resources, services and activities that are delivered to the community. They’re highly accountable to residents in multiple ways and as members of Council, they need to be focused on governing in the best interests of the entire municipality.

But they also have important roles as advocates and ambassadors who can speak and argue on behalf of residents and what is important to them. It’s why residents voted them in – to act on their behalf, to stand up for their beliefs and provide a voice for them on a raft of issues, no matter how contentious, and I’m pleased to see we have passionate Councillors willing to do this.

These issues could include advocating on community concerns such as domestic violence, education and health services, promoting recreation, tourism, business and employment opportunities, making sure all services and facilities provided by the Council are accessible and equitable, and addressing significant issues such as the invasion of fruit fly or water management matters that are affecting members of our community.

At the end of the day, Councillors are there to improve the quality of life for all – whether it be people who visit, work or live in our beautiful municipality.

These aspirations aren’t simply my beliefs or the beliefs of certain Councillors – they’re entrenched in the Local Government Act.

In Victoria, there are 79 very different Councils, but all must operate in accordance with the Act, which dictates that Local Government ‘perform the functions and exercise the powers conferred by or under this Act and any other Act for the peace, order and good government of their municipal districts’.

In essence, the primary objective of a Council is to strive for the best outcomes for the local community, keeping in mind the long term impacts of decisions. Council must do this by keeping in mind the need to:

  • promote the social, economic and environmental viability and sustainability of the area
  • ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively and services are provided in accordance with the Best Value Principles to best meet the needs of the local community
  • improve the overall quality of life of people in the local community
  • promote appropriate business and employment opportunities
  • ensure that services and facilities provided by the Council are accessible and equitable
  • ensure the equitable imposition of rates and charges
  • ensure transparency and accountability in Council decision-making.

In performing these roles, Councillors must:

  • consider the diversity of interests and needs of the local community
  • observe principles of good governance and act with integrity
  • provide civic leadership when performing their various functions and responsibilities
  • participate in the responsible allocation of resources of Council through the annual budget
  • facilitate effective communication between the Council and the community.

Our Councillors may have very healthy and different perspectives on policy and strategic directions but are united in their passion about improving our community and quality of life for all. Our community achieves more by working with our Council rather than giving headlines to individuals who seek to denigrate their efforts.

Gerard José 
Chief Executive Officer