Municipal council

The councillors you elect form a municipal council. This is the body that makes the by-laws and decisions for local government and oversees the executive and administration.

A municipal council has a number of different responsibilities. These include making the laws and policies, providing financial oversight, planning the budget, and hiring the municipal manager. It is also responsible for ensuring that the municipal administration fulfils its duties to the community.

Executive powers of municipal council
The executive powers of local government are considerable and include the duty to:

  • Monitor the municipal administration and review the performance of all aspects of local government
  • Make recommendations to council
  • Oversee provision of services to the community
  • Report annually to council on the effect of community participation and consultation in local government (s. 44(3)(g)(h) of the Municipal Structures Act).

These powers are exercised either by a mayor, or by an executive committee.

Executive committee

Where a committee exercises executive powers, it elects a mayor to act as its chairperson, but the mayor does not have greater power than other members of the committee. Like municipal council meetings, the meetings should be open unless it can be shown to be reasonable to exclude the public due to the nature of the agenda (s. 20(2) of the Municipal Systems Act). The executive committee (or executive mayor) must submit a report and recommendation to municipal council before council decides to:

  • Pass a by-law
  • Approve a budget
  • Impose rates, taxes or other charges
  • Take out loans
  • Approve the IDP
  • Decide human resource issues such as the hiring and conditions of service of the municipal manager and heads of administrative departments.

Council committees

Each municipal council will appoint standing committees elected from among its members. Usually these include a finance committee; service committees such as water, sanitation, electricity; human resources; and development committees. The councillor responsible for each department of government is sometimes called the Portfolio Head. So, for example, if you have a problem with water service, you can make contact with the head of the water portfolio. Other important committees include the oversight committee and the ethics committee that deals with Code of Conduct matters.