Each council is an independent group of people who work with, and for, their local community. This group is made up of elected members (one mayor and multiple councillors) and council staff.
Local government areas come in many different sizes. While large metropolitan councils employ hundreds of staff to service large populations in small areas, smaller rural councils may have very few staff servicing large geographical areas with small populations. Generally, most councils will have between 5 and 11 elected members.
Some council areas are divided into several geographical parts, known as divisions. Each division has one councillor who is elected by the voters within the division. In councils that don't have divisions, councillors are elected by all voters in the council area. However, all councillors are required by legislation to take decisions and act in the overall interest of the whole council community and area.
Councils decide what services they will provide locally, however there are some services councils are required to provide by legislation. These include:
- planning and development services, including building assessment
- some environmental health services, such as monitoring cooling towers for Legionnaire's Disease
- fire prevention (some building inspection, and some bushfire prevention planning functions are a duty, others are discretionary)
- dog and cat management
- some administrative requirements, such as preparing strategic plans for the area, maintaining an office, employing a Chief Executive Officer and supporting the elected council.
Other services and activities provided are varied and include - community health services, parks and gardens, recycling, public swimming pools, recycling, arts and culture programs, libraries, skate parks and much more.