Councillor expectations and support

Time commitment

Councillors spend several hours each week for formal duties such as attending meetings and reading meeting agendas and papers. Many more hours are invested in performing informal duties such as meeting with constituents and attending community functions. The time commitment varies, but it’s usually around 10 to 20 hours a week, including at least one meeting per week and generally more for the Mayor.

Councillors must also find time to respond to phone calls, emails and correspondence raising issues of concern from constituents and other members of the municipal community.

While there are core commitments councillors are expected to attend, there are also voluntary opportunities that can be taken up at the discretion of individual councillors.

Councillors often participate in external organisations, such neighbourhood house committees, and school and recreational committees. These organisations have their own meeting schedule and procedures.

Most councillors retain their employment and undertake the role of councillor in their own time. Councillors’ partners, although often invited, aren’t expected to attend all civic events and receptions.

Committee meetings

Formal council meetings are held at least once a month. There are often other activities and committee meetings that councillors can nominate for. Regular council and committee meetings may take up more than one night in some weeks. Commitments are shared with other councillors to spread the workload.

Allowances

Councillors are not considered employees of their council and do not receive employment benefits such as a salary and leave entitlements.

Councillors receive an allowance. Each council determines the amount to be paid to councillors within limits set by the Victorian Government. These limits vary depending on the revenue and population of each council. Mayors receive a larger allowance due to their role and increased workload.

The allowances are adjusted annually by the State Government. An amount equal to the superannuation guarantee (9.5 per cent) may be payable on top of the councillor allowance.

Councillors who reside in remote areas can be paid an additional allowance for each day they attend authorised meetings or functions.

For further information, contact the Australian Taxation Office on 13 28 61.

Support

Councils are required to provide councillors with resources and facilities and reimburse councillor’s reasonable travel and out-of-pocket expenses. These generally include:

  • administrative support, an office and a vehicle for the Mayor
  • laptop, tablet or mobile phone
  • reimbursement of travel, phone, internet, childcare and/or carer expenses for all councillors in accordance with the council expenses policy
  • access to relevant training and conferences.

In addition, councils provide councillors with access to office space and administrative support.

Taxation

Councillors must include the income equivalent to their allowance in their tax return. Councillors can decline to receive all or part of an allowance, in which case tax liability would reflect the amount accepted. Superannuation contributions to a complying fund do not represent assessable income.

Councillors are entitled to deduct a maximum of $1,000 for election expenses for each election, even where the expenditure is incurred in more than one financial year. If a deduction is claimed for any election expense which is reimbursed, the reimbursement must be included as income in the tax return.

For further information on taxation of councillor allowances and candidate expenses, please contact the ATO on 13 28 61 or visit the ATO website.

Councillor professional development

Councils are expected to support councillors by offering professional development programs through a combination of on-the-job experience and professional development programs in areas such as budgeting, strategic planning, meeting procedures, advocacy, negotiation and media.

Newly elected councillors are not expected to have all the tools, training, experience and competencies that might be required over a four-year term in office.

The MAV has an extensive professional development program for councillors and a quick e-learning module to help you better understand the role of local government.

“To be the mayor of course was my penultimate and that was a privilege to be asked by my peers to be their leader over those two years.”

Judith Voce, former mayor and councillor at City of Boroondara.