Councils regularly conduct consultations with members of their community. They also consult with other people who might be affected by matters under council consideration. Sometimes consultation is a legal requirement. At other times councils consult their residents in order to make good decisions that take into account community interests.
A council may convene public meetings and undertake surveys before developing a proposal for formal consultation. Councils also undertake consultation on other matters where they consider it important to determine public sentiment and community concerns before making a decision or commencing a project.
Each council has its own processes for inviting, receiving and responding to public consultation. Many of these consultations include the opportunity for direct participation by individuals or community groups.
Councils may invite community input:
Any person can make an unsolicited submission to their council on any matter of interest or concern. There is also a procedure for making objections to council.
By law, there are many decisions and activities that councils can only undertake following a public consultation. These include decisions about the following matters:
The consultation required by law for these matters must include the following:
Under some circumstances, people have legal rights to appeal or object to council decisions or actions. For example, when a council proposes to levy a special rate or charge, and where the amount of money to be raised by the proposed rate or charge will be more than two thirds of the total cost of the works or project, the council must give the affected ratepayers a right to object. If objections are received from a majority of affected properties, the council cannot proceed with the proposal.
In some cases, council decisions can be objected by lodging an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Councils can be contacted by phone, fax, post, online and in person. Many councils offer translation services for residents who don’t speak English. Most councils also offer a teletypewriter service through the National Relay Service. This service is for deaf, hearing-impaired, or speech-impaired residents.
There are a number of ways you can learn more about your council, how it works, and the services it offers.
Councils are required by law to make available a range of important publications. Many of these are available both in print and online, and some by inspection.
These publications include:
Some documents are only available for inspection at council offices. These may be viewed and copied, but not removed. Councils may charge fees for inspection and copying. It is advisable to make an appointment with your council to arrange an inspection of a document.
Websites and newsletters also provide residents with information about current events and issues, council projects and services, and summaries of the council plan or budget.
Advertisements and editorials are often placed in local newspapers to give notice of pending decisions, actions or consultations. These are sometimes required by law, such as when it is proposed to close a road, open a tender or levy a special charge.