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DEALING WITH LOCAL COUNCILS

DEALING WITH LOCAL COUNCILS

Councils represent the third tier of government in Australia. The other tiers are the Federal and State governments. Councils, are responsible for a variety of functions and services that affect our local communities and our daily lives. As a result, many concerns may be directed to them.

Useful Tips on Dealing with Local Councils

Dealing with councils may seem a daunting task if you are not accustomed to how they operate. It is important that you know your rights when dealing with council and the proper person to contact.

Councils effectively comprise two bodies - the elected body (mayor and councillors) and the employed body (council officers and staff). The exact roles of these bodies may not always be clear.

The elected body is largely responsible for the policy and decision-making of council. The councillors attend meetings where they decide on such things as development applications, rates to be levied and the plans affecting the council's area.

The employed body is primarily responsible for the daily operations of council. It has to ensure that the goals, policies and decisions made by the elected body are effectively implemented. The employed body's responsibilities include dealing with complaints, assessing development applications, carrying out inspections, and maintenance work. It includes staff such as health and building inspectors, engineers, surveyors, planners and maintenance workers.

So who do I deal with?

When you seek to lobby and influence the outcome of council policies, plans or decisions, your efforts should be directed towards the elected body. However, in most instances, concerns should also be directed to the employed body and in particular the General Manager who has responsibility for the day to day management of a council.

What rights do I have when dealing with council?

Before contacting someone within the council with regard to a complaint, you should be familiar with your rights. This includes your rights to access information from council, your rights to make applications to council, your rights to object to applications made to council and your rights to obtain a review of council's decision.

Your rights to access information and attend meetings

You have general rights to access information from council (including the right to view council files) and to attend council meetings.

It should be noted that access to information from a council may also be sought under the Freedom of Information Act 1995. For information on the Freedom of Information Act refer to the AussieLaw Freedom of Information topic.

Your rights to make applications to council

Many activities require the approval of council. If you are not sure whether you require the approval of council you should contact the council or a lawyer.

Your rights to object to an application

Your rights to object to an application are dealt with in the AussieLaw: Objections to Developments topic. When actually dealing with council, it depends on what type of application and whether it has been approved. Remember that council must consider your interests and it may be useful to gain public support, for example, through a petition.

Your rights to make submissions with regard to council plans and policies

A variety of opportunities exist for members of the public to contribute towards the formulation of plans and policies which will affect you and others within the council area. This includes local policies, local environmental plans and management plans.

Local policies may be formulated by council with regard to approvals given and orders made by council. Local policies list matters to be considered when considering whether to grant an approval or issue an order.

Local environmental plans (LEPs) are planning instruments designed to ensure that development complies with the achievement of planning objectives at the local level and therefore reflect local issues.

Two draft management plans must be prepared by councils each year: one with respect to its activities for the next three years and one with respect to its revenue policy for the year. The former plan contains a statement of principal activities the council proposes to conduct as well as the objectives and target of those activities. The latter concerns the rates and charges proposed to be levied, the amounts for fees and so forth.

FURTHER INFORMATION 

This Information Outline is provided courtesy of Grech Partners who are experienced in this area of law. They are located at Inglewood Business Centre, Norwest Business Park, Suites 41 & 42, 5 Inglewood Place Baulkham Hills NSW or you can call them on (02) 9851 2500 if you would like more information on the legal topic, or you wish to obtain formal advice regarding your situation.

Over the last 28 years of practice Grech Partners Solicitors, along with their dedicated and committed support staff, have developed a wholistic approach to all their clients seeking legal representation. The firm was initially established in 1971 consisting of one solicitor and a secretary. The firm has evolved to include a number of solicitors each with their own area of expertise. During their years of practice Grech Partners has represented a broad sector of the community ranging from individuals, families, multicultural groups, corporate clients to publicly listed companies as well as banking institutions with bases locally and overseas.

 

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