Thinking About Becoming A Councillor?

Recently there have been a few people express an interest in being a councillor. This usually happens a few months out from an election, so I thought I’d share my views and give a brief background to those who may not be familiar with council.

What’s it all about?

There are 11 councillors at Bayswater and they collectively make up the council. Every two years in October there is an election. It alternates between there being 5 and 6 spots available. Each term is for 4 years and each councillor spot is for a specific ward.

Sections 2.7 to 2.10 of the Local Government Act 1995 (LG ACT) is a great place to find out what the broad legislative requirements are for a councillor, mayor and council.

Turning up to some meetings would also be beneficial, although the formality does turn some people off.

What’s involved

It all comes down to decision making. This may be on the mundane, or on items which will have a significant impact on both individuals and the locality, now and well into the future. A balance needs to be found between s2.10 (a) of the LG Act “represents the interests of electors, ratepayers and residents of the district” and s2.10 (b), “provides leadership and guidance to the community in the district” because the two are not always aligned. In addition, ratepayers and residents may have different views on what is right, so which ones do you represent?

Currently, there is one council meeting a month and two major committee meetings the week before. These meetings can range from between 1 and 5 hours, and are where the decisions are made. On each of the other 2 weeks in the month there will be a workshop which is (meant to be) no longer than 3 hours.

In addition to the above there may be 4 or 5 special council meetings throughout the year and there are a number of smaller committees (either ‘management’ or ‘advisory’) you can opt to be on.

The time commitment to be a councillor can be pretty high, especially when you factor in the reading of agendas. A key duty outside of the meetings is to liaise with residents on concerns they may have, and connect them with the relevant people within the City administration.

Being a councillor can be very rewarding. You have the opportunity to raise issues/problems and see that solutions are provided. You have the opportunity to create change for the better.  Although it can be challenging sometimes as you are dealing with 10 other individuals who have differing views. Theoretically though, the combination of those views should lead to the best position/decision.

Can I get elected?

Yes you sure can.

Whilst incumbency is often an advantage, and helps existing councillors get re-elected, it can also be a disadvantage. Last election, 4 out of 5 existing Councillors failed to get re-elected, and this included the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. If people are generally not happy with the operations of the local government, they have one main option to do something about it; vote for change.

There is also a belief that general unhappiness with the State and Federal governments can have an impact.

How do I get elected?

Time  – You need to spend a significant amount of time speaking with community groups and residents. You need to be prepared to door-knock or stand in high traffic areas.

Money  I believe you need to invest anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 in marketing/advertising. If you’re running in an area where there are two spots available, and have teamed up with someone else, then some of the costs can be shared.

Knowledge – There are tried and tested methods to get elected, and having knowledge of them is a clear advantage.

There are obviously other important factors – existing involvement in the community, chosen platform, skill-set that you offer etc. And no one criteria is sufficient in itself, for example I know one councillor who spent $12,000 at the last election and still didn’t get re-elected.

I think I’ll add to this article as time goes by, but as it currently stands, I hope it has provided some benefit to someone out there.

If you’d like to know more, or have a chat, please feel free to get in touch.

Power to the People.

(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)