Councillors are elected by their local community to represent community views on council, provide leadership and make sure local needs are met. They do this by directing a council’s affairs, allocating resources for the benefit of the local area, developing policies and reviewing the council’s performance in relation to delivering services and other matters.
A councillor’s role is important. The decisions a councillor makes and the services provided by councils can impact on our lives, our local community and our local environment.
Being a councillor can be rewarding because it provides an opportunity to:
• make decisions that help people within the local community
• influence the long-term, strategic direction of a local community
• learn new skills such as public speaking and advocacy
• Work with a diverse range of people on a wide range of issues.
Being a councillor can also be challenging as councils need to:
• balance community needs and priorities, some of which are at odds with each other
• Work within a limited budget and a complex set of laws.
Councils control certain activities within their areas such as waste removal and disposal. Councils also have the power to order people to do certain things such as demolish a building or restrain any harming companion animals like dogs, cats etc. They can also order people to stop doing things, such as running a business in a residential area or creating a noise nuisance.
Local Councilors are mandated by law to render services to the people in their localities as stated in the constitution, article 112, and the Regions and Districts Law, article 20. The services one could expect from immediate local government include solid waste management, street-lighting, sewage system, drainage facilities and, to some extent, the provision of primary education and health services. Apart from delivery of services, local governments are mandated to administer land management and planning issues (spatial and strategic) as well as revenue collection and public expenditure management at the district level. However, in this part of the world -Somaliland, the situation is quite different; local governments provide only a small portion of the legally-mandated services, because they are seriously constrained by limited resources, fiscal disparities, and an inadequate legal framework.
Inevitably some decisions a council makes are not popular with some members of the community.
While having quite a bit of autonomy, if a council acts outside of the law it may be found by a court to be acting beyond its power. A council may also be liable for actions carried out negligently that result in damage or injury to people or property. This can often result in financial loss to the council.
Councils therefore need to take care to exercise their powers properly and in accordance with the law.
When a council has to make a decision involving a value judgment, it must do this fairly and without bias so that everyone whose rights and interests are affected is given the chance to express their views before the decision is made.
As well as the Local Government Law there are a number of other laws that councils are responsible for enforcing or complying with.
By Abdi Halim M. Musa
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