102525303_f9221bca5b_m Local governments have a massive responsibility, they are elected to provide governance over the day to day lives of their neighbors, peers and co-workers.

Broadly, these responsibilities include:

  • Making decisions and setting directions for promoting the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of their community. 
  • making and enforcing rules and laws regarding the needs of the community
  • Providing directly or on behalf of central government; adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community
  • ensuring that these services provided are managed efficiently and effectively
  • exercising community leadership
  • representing the community to other levels of government and authorities
  • managing, protecting, developing, restoring, enhancing and conserving the environment
  • accounting for and manage assets for which it is responsible
  • facilitating the involvement of councilors, members of the public, users of facilities and services and council staff in the development, improvement and co-ordination of local government and facilities
  • raising funds for local purposes by way of rates, charges and fees and investments, loans and grants
  • keeping the local community informed about its activities
  • listening to the concerns of the community
  • ensuring that in the exercise of its regulatory functions it acts without bias
  • acting as a responsible employer.

(Adapted from Role of local Government – Local Government NZ website)

These roles and responsibilities are almost exclusive of any actual legally designated roles or authority, however, they form the basis for how all dealings with council should be undertaken.

More after the jump…

Ultimately, it’s about leadership, and being humble enough to realize that being voted in doesn’t give council the power to go above the heads of those same constituents who trusted them. 


Governance is leadership, leaders must gain the respect and trust of their community, this is gained by making tough decisions on critical matters, but also by asking and listening to public input on matters that have less urgent goals or timelines, or may have innovative or locally inspired solutions.

I’m interested in the role of staff and how councilors accept or reject their advice, as well as ways to improve civil advocacy in local government.

I figure there’s not much that the average citizen can do about province (state) or federal government policy or procedure, but at the local level, there is scope for community involvement through attending council meetings, correspondence with council, meeting with the staff, writing to the local paper, and urging fellow citizens to vote and be part of the democratic process.

What are your thoughts on a democratically elected council’s responsibilities to their constituents?

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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