HELPING LOCAL
GOVERNMENTS
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ROLE OF THE COUNCIL ADMINISTRATION

The primary role of the administration is to support the council. This includes implementing council’s goals and strategies, managing the delivery of municipal services, and providing advice and support. Unlike other areas of local government, the role of the council administration is not set out in the Local Government Act 1989.

The administration can enhance good governance by recognising and supporting the governance role of the council.

HOW DOES THE ADMINISTRATION SUPPORT COUNCILLORS?

Councillors rely on the administration (which is the equivalent of the state and federal public service) for support, advice and assistance with the day-to-day activities of council. They also need help dealing with concerns raised by constituents.

This is quite different to what happens at state and federal levels where support structures for parliamentarians and the government are separated. On the one hand electoral officers and other staff deal with specific constituent issues. On the other, the public service manages the activities of governments as a whole, regardless of political affiliations. Find out more about local government structure.

By contrast, at the local government level, the main role of the administration is to support the council as a whole, however there will be demands on council officers to provide councillors with support relating to their constituents. For example, a resident may contact their councillor about problems with the road outside their property. The councillor will then turn to the administration for help resolving this matter.

It is important for the administration to recognise that elected members are not only accountable to the municipality as a whole, but also to their constituents. For this reason councillors often need the support to manage the various community pressures which are a normal part of council life.

HOW DOES THE ADMINISTRATION SUPPORT GOOD GOVERNANCE?

Providing advice and support on consultation and engagement, establishing robust systems that refer complaints and queries to the relevant area, and maintaining responsive services and processes all help to further good governance.

It is also important that council officers are able to help individual councillors where appropriate, without becoming involved in political activity or acting outside approved practices. Councillors for their part need to understand that the administration is fundamentally the public service of local government and is not there to promote the re-election prospects of individual councillors.

Some council officers also have statutory obligations that don’t fall under the Local Government Act. Legislation such as the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the Building Act 1993 mean that certain activities carried out by the administration may not be directly accountable to council and are therefore not necessarily subject to overall council direction.

FACT

“The administration should understand that it is working for a level of government.”

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