The Councillor's role

What does a Councillor do?

The role of Councillor can, at times, be very demanding, balancing a number of competing interests and wearing a number of hats, as Councillors can be required to act simultaneously as community leaders, representatives and board members.

The role and responsibilities of a Councillor can be divided into two main categories:

  • Being a member of the governing body of the Council; and
  • an elected representative of the community.

As a member of the governing body…

As a member of the governing body, Councillors are required to participate in the decision making processes that guide and govern the affairs of the Council. This includes:

  • Establishing a policy framework
  • Deciding on financial resources to be raised for delivery of determined programmes
  • Ensuring Council is fulfilling its regulatory functions in an appropriate manner
  • Developing a management plan for conduct of the Council’s activities; and
  • Regularly reviewing the Council’s performance.

As an elected representative of the community…

Councillors are elected to represent the interests of their community. A Councillor is required to:

  • Represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers
  • Provide leadership and guidance to the community
  • Facilitate communication between Council and the community
  • Promote the overall interests of Council to other government sectors and relevant bodies.

An elected member may be concerned with a wide range of important issues, such as the level of investment in community infrastructure, provision of community services, direction of social change and support for particular political values. Within this aspect of your role, Councillors will be expected to speak on behalf of individuals and organisations in your community - this may include people who didn’t vote for them.

Political accountability

Councillors are accountable to their communities for the decisions they make and the way in which they make them. Communities exercise rights through the triennial election as well as by participating in consultation opportunities. Parliamentary officers, such as the Ombudsman, ensure that Councils operate in an open and transparent manner.


Councillors are expected to show a level of leadership if their communities are to be successful and meet and survive challenges. The Local Government Act 2002 requires that councils identify community outcomes. Elected members will need to exercise leadership to work with other agencies in order to achieve their community’s outcomes.

Councillors will also show leadership through the adoption and implementation of the annual plan which identifies the Council’s proposed activities for the year, the annual report which provides accountability to the community, and by ensuring the Council’s chief executive implements the council’s policies and strategies.

Finding a balance

Generally elected members hold particular views on certain issues and often campaign on them. It is these views that are endorsed by the community at election time. However, after the election, elected members are required to recognise and consider the views of all residents and ratepayers when they make decisions. In making decisions they must have an open mind.

Elected members must find a balance between the mandate provided by their electors and the need to make decisions on behalf of the whole community and future generations.