What happens if you get elected?
Taking your oath
Once elected as a councillor you must not act in the office of councillor until you make the declaration of office.
You must make your declaration within one month of your election or appointment. This is usually done at the post-election meeting of the local government, which is held within 14 days of the conclusion of the election. The chief executive officer of the local government is authorised to conduct the taking of the declaration. An official record of the declarations is kept.
Getting started on your work as a councillor
It is important to realise that there will be a wide range of issues for your local government to consider. Newly elected and returning councillors may have particular topics they are eager to deal with.
However, councillors must represent the overall public interest of the local government area, so it is important to understand that there will already be a planned schedule of items to be debated and determined by the local government.
These matters will have been previously identified and relate to the goals or outputs of the local government's five-year corporate plan and annual operational plan, which cannot be changed simply by the election of a new local government without due process. Newly elected councillors will be required to undertake and carry on this important work as well as bringing their new topics forward for consideration.
In city and regional local governments there are local government committees that provide the opportunity to explore particular topics in detail. The role of these committees is to work on specific matters such as finance and budget, parks and recreation, roads and transport infrastructure. If you have a particular interest you may wish to serve on a committee dealing with your area of interest and expert knowledge. Councillors are elected to these committees at the post-election meeting of the local government.
Your primary responsibility and accountability as an elected councillor is to your community, and your local government's decisions must be made for the benefit of the entire local government area. If you represent a division you must also ensure that decisions benefit the whole area and not just the interests of the division you represent.
How to behave in the council chamber
As a councillor you need to be aware of the importance of observing meeting procedures to ensure the local government principles are reflected in the conduct of council and committee meetings.
The Local Government Act 2009 states that councils must either:
- adopt the department’s Model Meeting Procedures (PDF, 495KB), or
- prepare and adopt other procedures that are consistent with the Model Meeting Procedures for the conduct of its meetings.
Local government meetings are conducted in a formal manner, but the level of formality may vary, depending on the size and traditions of your local government. For example:
- Brisbane City Council is very large, and its meetings have an independent chairperson. It uses formal parliamentary rules of debate with the Lord Mayor and the governing councillors on one side of the chamber and the opposition councillors and opposition leader on the other side.
- Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council is small, with four councillors and a mayor. They sit together at a table where the mayor acts as chairperson and debate is more informal.
Despite variations in debate and meeting procedures, all local government decisions must be made by resolution, recorded in the minutes and implemented in the same way.
The chief executive officer of each local government will have information for you and other new councillors on how your local government's meetings are conducted and how to behave in the chamber. It is important that you read the information provided and the relevant legislation prior to your first council meeting.
Registering your interests
Once you are a councillor you are required to make all your activities and financial interests publicly known. You are also required to declare the interests of people related to you, including your children. The register of interests is kept so the community can have confidence that decisions being made by their local government are in the public interest and are not made for the benefit of councillors or their relatives.
A person is related to you if they are:
- your spouse
- someone who is totally or substantially dependent on you including:
- your children
- someone whose affairs are so closely connected with your affairs that a benefit derived by that person, or part of it, could pass to you (e.g. a parent or spouse).
Your register of interests can be viewed by the public at the council office or on the council website. A register of interests of related persons is not usually open to public inspection.
You are required to complete the prescribed form for the register of interests for yourself and your related persons and lodge it with the chief executive officer within 30 days of the commencement of your term as councillor. You must make sure you keep your register of interests, and your relatives' register of interests, up to date. There are penalties for failing to do this.
High-level information about transactions between the local government, you and people or entities related to you may also be disclosed in the local government’s financial statements. For more information refer to the Local Government Regulation 2012.
Last updated: Monday, Nov 30, 2020