The video below is a recording of the Webinar that ran on Thursday, 17 August 2017.

Overview

Ever thought about nominating to become a Councillor, but you aren't sure if the role is for you? Then be sure to watch the video below and review the Q&A Session responses.

To open this video in fullscreen please put your cursor over the right corner of this video and select 'open in new window'.

Video Recording

Video Download

To download the webinar video for offline playback click the one of the links below:

 

Presentation Download

To download the PowerPoint presentation from this webinar please click here.

Question and Answer Session

The following are a range of questions asked during and after the Prospective Elected Members Webinar held by WALGA on 17 August 2017:

Question 1

Is it possible for a district elector to be a non-Australian Citizen?

Answer
A claim for eligibility to be an elector of a Local Government District or Ward electorate may only occur where a person:

  • Is enrolled to vote as an elector for the State or Federal Electoral Roll*; and
  • Owns or occupies rateable property within the electorate; and
  • Has made a successful Eligibility Claim (claim forms are available from your Local Government).

*To be eligible for enrolment on the State or Federal Electoral Rolls you must be:

  • Aged 18 years or over;
  • An Australian Citizen (or British subject who was on the Roll between 26 October 1983 and 25 January 1985); and
  • Have lived at your current address for at least one month.

The Local Government Act 1995 does however provide one exception to the requirement to be an Australian Citizen, applicable only where a person has:

  • owned or occupied rateable property in the District or Ward electorate; and
  • was on the last electoral roll prepared under the Local Government Act 1960 for that electorate; and
  • has owned or occupied rateable property in the electorate continuously since that roll was prepared.

WALGA recommends that you contact your Local Government to confirm your eligibility.

Question 2

Can an Elected Member serve as an Office Bearer of an incorporated NFP community group that receives funding from the Council on which they serve?

(The organisation receives additional funding from other organisations, government and private so is not wholly dependant of the Council for funds.)

Answer
Yes, an Elected Member may continue to serve as an office bearer and participate in their community group connections.

As an Elected Member however, you are required to make formal declarations of interest when a matter regarding any community group with which you have a connection is considered by Council or a Committee. As such, if the conflict of interest is a financial or proximity interest the Elected Member would be required to disclose the interest and be excluded from participating in the debate and from voting (must leave the meeting during consideration of the matter). If there is no financial interest arising from the matter, then the Elected Member would be required to disclose an Impartiality Interest, which would be recorded in the meeting minutes, and the Elected Member could remain in the meeting, participate in debate and can vote on the matter.

Question 3

Does being a Shire appointed voluntary officer (eg Fire Control Officer) prohibit me from being a Councillor?

Answer
No. A voluntary statutory appointment does not prevent you from holding office as an Elected Member. When fulfilling your Elected Member responsibilities you would however, be required to disclose any conflict of interest arising from your voluntary position.

Question 4

Can an employee of one Local Government nominate for election as a Councillor for another Local Government?

Answer
Yes. A person may work as an employee of one Local Government and be an elected member of another Local Government. They cannot however, be both an employee and an elected member of the same Local Government.

Question 5

What is the situation where an elected Councillor relocates their residence to another Local Government area during their term? Are they required to resign?

Answer
Provided the Elected Member retains their eligibility as an elector of the District, they may remain in office despite relocating their residential address to outside the District. Eligibility as an elector of the District would continue if the Elected Member retains ownership of rateable land within the District or has a legal right to occupancy of rateable land within the District and makes a successful Eligibility Claim for enrolment on the Owner / Occupier Roll before their residential status changes.

If however, the Elected Member no longer meets the eligibility requirements as an elector of the District, then they will be disqualified from holding office. In this circumstance the Elected Member should initiate their resignation, as in the absence of a resignation, the CEO of the Local Government would be required to declare the Elected Member as disqualified.

Question 6

Is there a minimum education requirement (ie year 12 certificate) to be a Councillor?

Answer
No. The Local Government Act 1995 does not require a minimum education standard in order to be an Elected Member.

Question 7

How can I definitively find out if I'm eligible to stand?

Answer
Contact either:

to confirm your eligibility status.

Question 8

Considering section 5.36 of the Local Government Act 1995, does an intern have the same definition as employee? If a student is undertaking an unpaid internship, will they be able to nominate for Council?

Answer
An intern would be considered an employee for the purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and considered an employee of the Local Government under the Local Government Act 1995. Section 2.26 of the Local Government Act 1995 specifies that a person’s employment with a Local Government terminates when the person begins their term of office as an elected member.

Question 9

Can candidates be supported by political parties (for example, in getting advice or help in fundraising)?

Answer
Yes. There is no restrictions in the Local Government Act 1995 preventing a candidate obtaining advice or volunteer assistance in their campaign.

Candidates are however prohibited from receiving gifts (a conferral of property or financial benefit) from unidentified donors. In addition, a Candidate and the Donor of any gift, or 2 or more gifts, valued more than $200 worth must make a formal disclosure of the gift. Failure to disclose a relevant electoral gift is an offence under the Local Government Act 1995.

Question 10

Do candidates (who are supported by political parties) have to publicly declare it?

Answer
There is no requirement under the Local Government Act to declare affiliations with political parties. It is completely at the discretion of each Candidate as to what they wish to disclose during their campaign.

It is however important to note, that once elected to Council each Elected Member is required to participate in debate and vote in a manner that demonstrates representation of the interests of the electors, ratepayers and residents of the entire District. Voting in Local Government matters should not be based upon factional or party lines.

Question 11

Do you have to be Councillor first before standing out as Mayor/President?

Answer
There are two different scenarios that may be relevant when answering this question, dependent on the method used by your Local Government to elect the President / Mayor:

If your Local Government has an Elector President / Mayor (popularly elected by the community), then a person Nominating for election as the President / Mayor does not have to be a sitting Councillor for that District.

If however, your Local Government has a Council Elected President / Mayor (elected by the Council from amongst the elected Councillors), then yes, you must have been elected to the Council before you can nominate for election as President / Mayor.

Check with your Local Government to confirm which method is used for the election of President / Mayor in your District.

Question 12

Can someone who is a public servant and works for the State Government nominate for election to Council?

Answer
Yes. Only a Member of Parliament is disqualified under s. 2.23 of the Local Government Act 1995 from being an elected member. A public servant is not prevented from Nominating for Local Government Elections.

Question 13

What would be the next step if we were interested in becoming a Councillor?

Answer
A person interested in becoming a Councillor can access some useful information on the Department of Local Government’s website concerning standing for Council. These resources may be accessed at on the DLGC website.

You may also seek to make an appointment with your Local Government’s Returning Officer to discuss standing for Council and to ensure that you have all the necessary information you need to make an informed decision on whether to Nominate for election to Council.

Question 14

Do the “written and authorised by” declaration and the printers street address need to be on both sides of a campaign flyer or can it just be at the end of the second page?

Answer
Section 4.87 of the Local Government Act 1995 requires that the “written and authorised by” declaration and the name and street address of the printer, must appear at the end of election material.

Question 15

What are the rules about using social media to declare that you intend to run for Local Government and seek support?

Answer
Any election material published, must comply with the requirements of section 4.87 of the Act as detailed above, and this includes social media postings.

The Western Australian Electoral Commission website provides some useful guidance under the heading Authorisation of Election Campaign Material. For further guidance, contact the Returning Officer for your Local Government District.

Question 16

What do you suggest are the best avenues for connecting with voters during election time?

Answer
Each Candidates election campaign is entirely at their discretion and will vary dependent on the issues that they wish to address with their community, the Candidates campaign budget and the extent of volunteers that they have involved in their campaign.

The Western Australian Electoral Commission website provides some useful guidance under the heading Authorisation of Election Campaign Material. For further guidance, contact the Returning Officer for your Local Government District.

Question 17

Sometimes Councillors are elected unopposed - does this literally mean not one vote against them?

Answer
To be elected unopposed means that a person was the only candidate for the vacant position on Council. If there were four vacancies on Council and only four people nominate for election, there is no requirement for a vote to be undertaken as each of the nominated candidates would be elected unopposed to the four vacant offices on Council.

Question 18

I have seen people advertising on Facebook that they are running for a Council yet they have not officially nominated and been accepted by the Returning Officer. Is this legal? Does it breach of any electoral laws?

Answer
A person may state that they intend to run for Council prior to the Returning Officer accepting a formal nomination. It is not a breach of the electoral laws.

Question 19

How do I find out what Band our Council is in?

Answer
The Salaries and Allowances Tribunal determines the bands for Local Government in an annual Determination. Follow this link to the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal 2017 Local Government Determination - Schedule 1 sets out the bands for each Local Government.

Question 20

The Salaries and Allowances Tribunal Determination includes quite a range in the allowances paid to Elected Members - how are the allowances in each "band" determined?

Answer
The Salaries and Allowances Tribunal Determination outlines their methodology for determining Elected Member allowances within the different bands for each local government. Follow this link to the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal 2017 Local Government Determination – the Preamble section of the Determination details the methodology.

Question 21

Isn't it a conflict of interest that the Council vote on the amount they will pay themselves within a band?

Answer
The Local Government Act 1995 (s.5.63(1)(c)(i)) exempts Elected Members from having to disclose interests arising from consideration of statutory fees and allowances. This enables Elected Members to participate and vote on matters associated with the setting of statutory fees and allowances and ensures that the Council is able to make decisions on these matters in accordance with the Act.

Question 22

If there are two Councillors per Ward how are the duties divided up? Or is it up to the individual Council to decide?

Answer
A Councillor who is elected in a District that is divided into Wards, is obligated under section 2.10 of the Local Government Act 1995 to represent the interests of the electors, ratepayers and residents of the entire District.

In accordance with this requirement under the Act, it is therefore inappropriate for a Councillor to act only in the interests of electors, ratepayers or residents of a particular Ward. Councillors are required to act, at all times, in the best interests of all people within the entire District.

The Council may however decide, where deemed appropriate, to designate a Councillor to represent the Council in fulfilling particular duties i.e. represent the Council at a particular event, on a community group or an external board.

Question 23

How many Council meetings or sessions take place each month?

Answer
The number of Council meetings, briefing sessions and committee meetings are determined by each individual Local Government each calendar year and the schedule will be specific to the needs of that Local Government’s business and community.

Some Local Governments may have a meeting cycle that requires Councillors to attend a Council meeting once per month, others may have two Council meetings per month. The Local Government Act 1995 does not state a maximum number of meetings per year, but it does require that a Council meeting must be held not more than three months apart. Contact your Local Government to find out how many meetings and other briefing sessions they hold per month for Elected Member participation.

Question 24

How long is a Councillors term (time served in Councillor role)?

Answer
A Councillor elected in an ordinary election is elected for a four year term.

Question 25

What happens if you can’t serve out your four year term?

Answer
If an Elected Member resigns or becomes disqualified at any point within their four year term, then the Local Government is required to hold an extraordinary election to fill the vacancy.

That is, unless:

  • The vacancy has occurred on or after the 3rd Saturday in July prior to an Ordinary Election. Then extraordinary election can be consolidated to occur concurrently with the Ordinary Election. OR
  • The Council of the Local Government makes a decision to request the Minister for Local Government to allow the Office to remain vacant until the next ordinary election.

Question 26

What if you or a family member are sick or you have other commitments that prevent you from attending a meeting?

What if you need to take extended leave from Council how is this dealt with?

Answer
It is important that you advise your apology in writing (email will do) to the CEO and the Presiding Member where you are unable to attend any individual meeting. The President / Mayor is the Presiding Member for Council meetings and the Councillor appointed as Presiding Member for a Committee.

Recording your formal apology is important, as section 2.25 of the Act states that if an Elected Member fails to attend 3 or more consecutive meetings, without an approved Leave of Absence, the Elected Member is disqualified from holding office.

Where an Elected Member becomes aware that they will need to be absent from several consecutive meetings (Hey! We all need a holiday ☺), the Act requires the Elected Member to apply to Council for a Leave of Absence. The Council is required to consider the request and make a decision to approve (or otherwise deal with) the request.

Council may grant leave for 6 consecutive ordinary meetings of the Council, any more requires the approval of the Minister, unless all of the meetings are within a period of 3 months. A Councillor who is absent, without obtaining leave of the Council throughout 3 consecutive ordinary meetings of the Council is disqualified, unless all of the meetings are within a 2 month period. Where a Council holds 3 or more ordinary meetings within a 2 month period, and the Councillor is absent without leave, the Councillor is disqualified.

Question 27

What time commitment is require of Elected Members for Council meetings, briefing sessions, preparation and other duties if we are successfully elected?

I work full time and am also studying an MBA, should I wait until I’ve finished study before considering running for Council?

Answer
The amount of time spent at meetings and the commitment required as a Councillor will vary depending on the Local Government.

Elected Members must ensure that they have sufficient time for reading and understanding meeting agendas in addition to actually attending meetings. The business that is required to be transacted by the Council is often unpredictable as the Council must necessarily respond to community needs and the Local Government's functions under law. Therefore the reading load can be substantial at times and may not always be compatible with other personal commitments.

Contact your CEO to discuss time commitment expectations relevant to your Local Government.

Question 28

What is the exit procedure if there is a need to resign due to ill health or personal issues?

Answer
An Elected Member who believes that they are no longer able to fulfil the role and responsibilities of the Office, must provide a written resignation to the CEO, detailing the date that the resignation is to be effective. If no date is specified in the notice, the resignation is effective from the date that the notice is provided to the CEO. It is courteous to also advise the President / Mayor.

The CEO will then follow the prescribed requirements, in consultation with the Council, to arrange for an Extraordinary Election or to seek Council’s consideration of a proposal for the Office to remain vacant until the next Ordinary Election.

Question 29

What time commitment is require of Elected Members for Council meetings, briefing sessions, preparation and other duties if we are successfully elected?

I work full time and am also studying an MBA, should I wait until I’ve finished study before considering running for Council?

Answer
The amount of time spent at meetings and the commitment required as a Councillor will vary depending on the Local Government.

Elected Members must ensure that they have sufficient time for reading and understanding meeting agendas in addition to actually attending meetings. The business that is required to be transacted by the Council is often unpredictable as the Council must necessarily respond to community needs and the Local Governments functions under law. Therefore the reading load can be substantial at times and may not always be compatible with other personal commitments.

Contact your CEO to discuss time commitment expectations relevant to your Local Government.

Question 30

What are the expectations of travel for Councillor?

Answer
Travel undertakings will vary depending on your Local Government. In regional Local Governments that span vast areas, the travel commitment expected from Elected Members will be greater in order to attend meetings and functions conducted by the Local Government.

You should contact the CEO of your local government who should be able to provide an indication of the travel commitment expected.

Contact your CEO to discuss travel expectations specific to your Local Government.

Question 31

If I nominate for election to Council and I have a holiday booked shortly after the election result date (within a week) will I still be able to hold be elected and go on my holiday?

Answer
Yes, provided that you make the Declaration of Office within 2 months of the Election Result being declared

If you are successful in your Election, ensure you advise your holiday plans to the CEO at the earliest opportunity to ensure the CEO can make appropriate arrangements for you to make the Declaration of Office.

Question 32

What is the expectation for Councillors to be members of Committees?
(How many Committees, how often might they meet, etc.?)

Answer
Each Local Government will determine the number of Committees it establishes (if any at all, as committees are not mandated) and how frequently each Committee is required to meet.

Contact your CEO to discuss the Committee structure specific to your Local Government.

Question 33

If I hold strong particular views on a matter (ie removal of trees) am I able to hold true to my belief when voting on that matter at a Council meeting?

Answer
This is an important question that requires each Elected Member to balance their personal views with their obligations as an Elected Member within the Council.

  • The Local Government Act 1995 states that the role of the Local Government is to provide for the good government of persons in its District.
  • The Act also prescribes the role of the Council as being to govern the Local Government’s affairs, be responsible for the performance of the Local Government’s functions and to oversee the allocation of the Local Government’s finances and resources.
  • Further, the Act obligates each Elected Member to represent the interests of the electors, ratepayers and residents of the whole Local Government District and to participate in the decision making processes at Council and committee meetings.

The Act also prescribes the duties of the CEO to:

  • Provide advice to the Council in relation to the functions of a Local Government under written law; and
  • Ensure advice and information is available to the Council so that informed decisions can be made.

Therefore, if an Elected Member holds particular personal views, they must set aside their personal opinion and consider without bias, the advice and information provided in a report provided by the CEO. The Elected Member may contribute their experience and expertise when participating in the Council’s debate and may move a motion directing the CEO to obtain and provide the Council with additional information, if this is considered appropriate by the Council.

In any case, each Elected Member must cast their vote in a manner that demonstrates good government of the District, in context of the performance of the Local Government’s functions under law and the availability of Local Government finances and resources.

Question 34

Do you need to be elected to participate in training with WALGA?

Answer
All WALGA Training courses are only available to Local Government Officers (Staff) and current Elected Members with the exception of eLearning courses.

Members of the public can enrol in any of WALGA's eLearning courses, including Elected Member eLearning courses, by following the registration prompts on the relevant course page. Upon successful completion participants are issued a Certificate of Participation; an official recognition of their learning achievement.

Question 35

Is it the case that you can't run for Deputy or President in your first term?

Answer
No.There is no prohibition or limitation that would prevent a candidate nominating for the Offices of Deputy President / Mayor or President / Mayor in their first term.

Question 36

Do all Local Governments have communications protocols, Standard Orders, etc.? I cannot find them on my Local Government’s website.

Answer
Most Local Government’s will have a Standing Orders Local Law (sometimes call Meeting Procedures Local Law). Some however do not have this Local Law and may instead have a Council Policy which outlines how their meetings are undertaken.

Communications protocols are also discretionary.

If you are having difficulty finding the information, contact your Local Government direct and request a copy or assistance in finding the information online.

Question 37

If I become an Elected Member, can I request a bound copy of the State Legislation and Shire Local Laws that are referred to at Council Meetings?

Answer
WALGA would strongly recommend that Elected Member’s do not rely on printed copies of State legislation, for two reasons:

  • Legislation and its subsidiary Regulations are subject to amendments which are regularly passed by Parliament. An Elected Member who then relies on out-dated information is likely to be misinformed when providing information to the community and when making decisions.
  • There are over 170 separate pieces of Western Australian legislation which prescribe Local Government functions, of these there will be at least 15 to 20 pieces of legislation that are most often applicable. The Local Government Act 1995 alone includes almost 1000 pages.

Providing each Elected Member with printed copies of legislation presents a risk to the Elected Member’s effective fulfilment of their role and may be an unnecessary cost and waste of Local Government resources.

Wherever possible Elected Members should access legislation on the State Law Publisher website, as this ensures they are accessing the most current and accurate version. Elected Members may also ask their CEO to provide specific advice regarding any matter related to the Local Government’s functions under written law.

Question 38

If backlash from one or more community members turns into harassment or bullying, what steps can a Councillor take to address this?

Answer
The Act prescribes the role of an Elected Member as including representing the interests of their community and facilitating communication between the community and the Council. There will be occasions when the community, or particular individuals in the community, are dissatisfied with the performance of the Council or an Elected Member/s and may express this in ways that are confronting.

For the most part, it is the role of an Elected Member to listen to the concerns expressed by the community, distilling out any overly emotive or confronting communications from the core concerns being raised by the community. To a certain extent Elected Members will need to develop a ‘thick skin’ in order to avoid over reacting to community concerns.

If however, an Elected Member considers that communications related to their Elected Member role constitute harassment or bullying, they should seek advice from their President / Mayor and CEO. Dependent on the circumstances the Local Government may be able to provide some assistance to support the Elected Member in addressing the issues.

In any case, any communication which is considered threatening should be immediately reported to WA Police, as a criminal matter.

Question 39

At meetings, is there provision for 'in camera' sessions where the public gallery is cleared to provide scope for a confidential discussion of some sensitive issue?

Answer
Section 5.23(2) of the Local Government Act 1995 prescribes the circumstances where a meeting may be closed to the public. Some examples include:

  • Matters affecting an employee or employees;
  • The personal affairs of any person;
  • A contract that may or has been entered into by the Local Government;
  • Legal advice obtained or which may be obtained by the Local Government;
  • A matter that if disclosed would reveal – a trade secret, or information that has a commercial value; or information about the business, professional, commercial or financial affairs of a person…

The CEO will advise the Council as to when it is appropriate for a meeting to be closed to the public. When it is appropriate to close the meeting, the Council will be required to pass a motion to close and then reopen the meeting. When the meeting reopens, the public must be invited back to the meeting and any decision made by the Council whilst the meeting was closed, must be read aloud to the public and be recorded in the meeting minutes.

Question 40

Are there standard performance agreements in place with CEOs or does each Council create their own?

Answer
The Local Government Act 1995 prescribes that the Council is the CEO’s employer and that each Council must negotiate and agree a contract of employment with the CEO to facilitate the CEO’s appointment.

It is common practice for CEO contracts to include the requirements for performance review and the setting of performance criteria in consultation between the CEO and the Council.

Question 41

Is it only the President / Mayor that can performance manage the CEO or is it done via a committee like “boards” do?

Answer
The Local Government Act 1995 establishes the CEO as an employee of the Council. Further the Act does not provide a President / Mayor with any individual powers or authority. The President / Mayor may only act to in accordance with a decision made by the Council.

Some Local Governments do establish a Committee of Council to undertake the CEO’s performance review and make recommendations to the Council as to the outcomes of the performance review process.

In any case, neither the President / Mayor nor a Committee can take action to implement a performance review outcome. Only the Council can make that decision.

It is recommended that the Council and the CEO agree very early in the contract period the methodology for undertaking the CEO performance review process and the performance criteria by which the CEO’s performance will be assessed, with the performance criteria reviewed by the Council and agreed by the CEO following each performance review period. By having the performance methodology and criteria agreed up front, both the Council and the CEO will have a clear understanding of expectations and enable a fair and equitable process for the Council as the employer and the CEO as the employee.

Question 42

Can a Councillor have authority to propose any new services to the Council or does the Councillor have to get all other Councillors with him before proposing the service?

Answer
Most Local Governments will have briefing sessions or strategy forums in which Elected Members may raise items of interest or proposals for new policy or services. This will usually be the first option for Elected Members to start a conversation with their fellow Members and consider the merits, opportunities and risks arising from a proposal.

Elected Members may also use conversations with individual Elected Members to ‘float’ an idea and gauge the level of support.

Where the Local Government’s Standing Orders Local Law permits, an Elected Member may put forward a ‘Notice of Motion’, which outlines the proposal for the CEO to prepare a report for Council’s future consideration. If this motion is passed by the Council, the CEO will then investigate the proposal and provide a comprehensive report that details relevant legislative requirements, options, risks, financial and resource implications, including recommendations for Council to then decide the matter.

It is important for Elected Members to understand that Council decisions must be evidenced as well informed and for the good government of the District – refer Question 33 above.

Question 43

Is the President / Mayor's term tied to the election term of that person? Or can the President / Mayor be changed out mid-term?

Answer
President / Mayor’s may be elected by two different methods and their Term of Office as President / Mayor will differ dependent on how they are elected.

If your Local Government has an Elector President / Mayor (popularly elected by the community), then the term of Office will be 4 years.

If however, your Local Government has a Council Elected President / Mayor (elected by the Council from amongst the elected Councillors), then the Term of Office will be 2 years, expiring at the next Ordinary Election.

Check with your Local Government to confirm which method is used for the election of President / Mayor in your District.

Question 44

Are there any different things one should be conscious of on a regional Council?

Answer
A Regional Council operates similarly to a Local Government Council and the Regional Local Government’s establishment agreement will set out other obligations.

Part 3, Division 4 of the Local Government Act 1995 provides information on the constitution and constraints of a regional Council. A copy of the Local Government Act 1995 may be accessed at the State Law Publisher website.