Great question.In Australia we have three levels of government; Federal, State and Local. The Federal Government has control over things like foreign affairs, defence, immigration, pensions and some parts of Health. The Federal Government divvies out tax money from the GST and other taxes to the states, so while they don’t technically control schools and hospitals they do play a major role in funding them. The State Government runs schools, hospitals, emergency services, public transport, state roads and it is State legislation that creates Local Government. Local Government runs local planning, environment management, local roads, parks, sports grounds, libraries and rubbish collection.
There is overlap in many areas between layers of government; this can be both good and bad. Obviously there needs to be roads that are funded by the state government otherwise we’d have no roads that went for more than the length of one council area. However the State government also has the power to over-ride the wishes of a community as we have seen with WestConnex. It is up to the council to represent the views of their communities and make decisions which provide most benefit to the community.
There are 5 main areas in which local councils work
- Planning for sustainable development
- Providing and maintaining infrastructure
- Protecting the environment
- Providing community services and development
- Safeguarding public health
Councillors in Local Government do not work full time on the council, unlike State and Federal representatives and so it might seem like Local Government is less important. However local government is closest to the community and provides many services that go , while they might go unnoticed, affect peoples everyday life. If suddenly there was no longer rubbish collection, or no footpaths or no-one to enforce food hygiene it would be obvious how important local government.