The current debate about local council mergers might lead you to ask, why does the State government control the local government? Who controls the State government?
The Federal Constitution
It all starts with the Federal Constitution. The state governments are permitted to pass laws related to any matter that is not controlled by the Commonwealth under Section 51 of the Australian Constitution. So the Federal government has a prescribed list of things that they can do, and the State government has everything else. This can be quite a long list, particularly when you take into account the changes in society that have occurred since the Constitution was created.
What does the State Government do?
The NSW State Government has power over a lot of areas, including schools, hospitals, conservation and environment, roads, railways and public transport, public works, agriculture and fishing, industrial relations, community services, sport and recreation, consumer affairs, police, prisons and emergency services.
The State Government has a long list of responsibilities, and some of the things on this list are quite specific to the local area like development and building and whether it is appropriate to the area, or garbage collection. For this reason the State Government then delegated authority to local governments through the Local Government Act for these matters which were considered more local in nature.
What does Local Government do?
The Local Government does those things which are allocated to it under the Local Government Act, like garbage collection and development approvals. We actually previously did an article on what the Penrith City Council local government does in preparation for the local elections, and you can read that article by clicking on this link.
Why is this in the news now?
As the State Government gives the power to the local governments, it can also take it away. This is essentially what is happening with the Council amalgamations, the State gave the local councils the power in the first place and now it has decided to make changes to those powers. There are ongoing Court challenges to some of these amalgamations, though these challenges seem to be focused on the processes pursued to amalgamate the Council, not whether or not the State Government has the authority to do this if it did indeed follow proper procedure.
There are other instances where the State Government can take away, or curtail powers of the local government, it is just that this issue is getting a lot of media attention. For instance the State Government has created Planning Panels to have oversight over local government development planning procedures, essentially to speed up the process or force approvals in certain areas. In some situations these panels can act as the relevant planning authority, that is the first port of call for a development application, if the State Government wants to take a particular planning proposal out of the hands of local government.
Having a Council issue?
If you are having an issue with local council, for instance with a development application, or the application of local council ordinances to you or your business, then you should come and speak to Bruce Coode about your situation. He will be able to let you know during the initial half hour free consultation whether there is anything that he can do to help.
In addition to working for individual clients in private practice as a solicitor in Penrith since 1977, he was a legal advisor to three local councils for many years, and has lectured in real estate law at university. He understands more than just your basic conveyance, and is well equipped to assist you with all aspects of your local council problems.