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Guide to Councils

Council decisions

There are a number of activities that contribute to good council decision making.

These include:

  • Making sure council decisions are recorded at council meetings in the meeting minutes
  • Delegating certain decision making to council staff or special committees of council
  • Gathering information to help support decisions through:
    • advisory committees
    • council briefings and workshops
    • community consultation
    • contact with the community
    • links with other authorities
    • memberships of other bodies.

Any council decision taken as a result of these processes happens at a formal council meeting or is formally delegated. In this way council decision making remains transparent and accountable to the community.

Meeting minutes

After each council meeting, minutes are prepared. This is the official record of the decisions made by the council. The minutes of each council meeting, which include relevant reports or summaries of these reports, must be available for public inspection for 12 months following each meeting.

Many councils publish their meeting minutes on their website. Meeting minutes are sometimes also made available in places such as the local library or community centre and council offices.

Delegated decision making

Councillors can make a formal decision at a council meeting to delegate certain decision-making powers to council staff or special committees of council. Because delegates are making decisions ‘as the council’, they are subject to strict controls and accountability.

Councils can change or revoke a delegation at any time. Certain council powers cannot be delegated. The council must keep a register of all delegations, which must be available for public inspection. All delegations to staff must be reviewed by a council within 12 months following a council’s general election.

Each council's performance for Governance can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Staff as delegated decision makers

Delegating specific powers, duties or functions to staff members can speed up council decisions and ensure that council meetings are not tied down by procedural and everyday administrative decisions. It also enables councils to use the technical knowledge, training and experience of staff members to support their decisions.

Decisions to delegate specific powers to staff or special committees are made at a formal council meeting and specify what the delegate is empowered to do. They are usually required to observe the strategies, policies and guidelines adopted by the council and may be required to report periodically to the council on decisions made.

Through the Chief Executive Officer and senior managers, the council can monitor the actions of staff to ensure that they exercise their delegated authority correctly. In this way the council retains control over decision making.

The council often delegates to staff such as the Chief Executive Officer, environmental health officers, fire prevention officers and local laws and planning officers. Council staff members are required to act impartially, with integrity and to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest.