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MAYOR & COUNCILLOR RELATIONSHIP

The relationship between the mayor and councillors is very important because good leadership and good relationships contribute to effective participation of councillors and good governance.

As the leader of the council and of all councillors, the mayor’s role is particularly important in facilitating good relationships. The functions of the Mayor specified in the Act include supporting good working relations between Councillors.

HOW DOES THE MAYOR FACILITATE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS?

The mayor requires great skill and expertise to encourage all the councillors to work together in the interests of the municipality as a whole, to provide guidance and support to individual councillors, and to assist in resolving disputes. A Council’s Councillor Code of Conduct will most likely include a mediation role for the Mayor in relation to dispute resolution.

Leading the councillors

The mayor is the leader of all councillors, regardless of whether they supported the mayoralty candidate or not. The mayor must encourage all the councillors to work together as a cohesive governing body.

Councillors must, in turn, show respect for the mayor despite differences of opinion or political allegiances. The mayor’s success in leading council depends greatly on being empowered by the councillor group as the position of mayor has no statutory authority over the rest of the councillors (except in limited matters in the cities of Melbourne and Greater Geelong).

Helping the councillor group work together

The mayor plays a crucial role encouraging councillors to express their opinions both within and outside the council chamber. The Mayor also has a responsibility to ensure that the Council Meetings are conducted impartially and in accordance with the Council’s Meetings local law. If councillors feel that their points of view are being heard, acknowledged and respected, they are more inclined to accept decisions that they don’t agree with. They will also remain active and involved members of the group.

In this role, the mayor can manage potential conflict and differing opinions in a constructive way. Because councillors reflect the complex and diverse opinions of the community, it’s important that this be managed in a way which benefits the broader interests of the municipality.

Helping individual councillors

The mayor may also be a first point of contact for councillors who have particular goals they want to achieve on behalf of their constituents. This is particularly true for new councillors. One aspect of developing council and annual plans involves the need to bring together many diverse and sometimes conflicting goals.

The mayor can considerably assist this process by providing advice and support to individual councillors, and by facilitating communication and negotiations between councillors themselves and councillors and the administration. This ultimately helps councillors to represent the interests of their constituents and do their best to deliver on their election promises.

Helping resolve disputes

The mayor is often the first point of contact when a dispute between councillors occurs. In some Victorian councillor codes of conduct, the mayor plays a key role in  dispute resolution procedures. These procedures, and their implementation, should be characterised by fairness, natural justice and lack of bias.

The mayor can also help to determine whether an issue should be viewed as a dispute (that is, a personal difference between councillors) or an allegation of a breach of the council’s code of conduct. The former requires a mediation process. The latter may  involve a referral of the alleged breach for consideration under the council’s internal resolution procedure. Helping to distinguish between the two types of dispute can clarify what should be done. For more information see Codes of conduct.

FACT

“The mayor’s leadership skills can help all councillors work as an effective governing group.”

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