lgi.vic.gov.au

Overview of councillor support and expenses policy

Overview of councillor support and expenses policies by the Local Government Inspectorate.

Sections 39 to 42 of the Act provide the framework for councillor support and entitlements, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • an optional allowance 2
  • a toolkit of resources such as a mobile phone, computer, stationery, taxi vouchers, and council office space 3 
  • reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the course of their role, such as information technology costs, meals, travel, training, and childcare 4

Councillors have the discretion to elect to receive the entire allowance to which they are entitled, part of the allowance, or no allowance.5 The allowance is currently set by the Minister for Local Government,6 with councils divided into three categories based on their income and population.7 Each of the three categories has a lower and upper range of allowance for councillors and an upper range for the mayoral allowance. The exception is Melbourne City Council, whose allowances are separately fixed.8 Previously, the allowances for Geelong City Council were also separately determined under section 13(3) of the City of Greater Geelong Act 1993 (repealed on 6 April 2020). Under the Act, the allowance will now be determined by the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal.9

Councils are only required to reimburse councillors for out-of-pocket expenses which are bona fide, have been reasonably incurred in performing their role, and are reasonably necessary for the performance of their role.10 The Act does not specify the kinds of expenses which meet these criteria, other than requiring that councillors be reimbursed for child care costs and carer’s costs where they are reasonably required for the councillor to perform their role.

The Local Government (Planning and Reporting) Regulations 2014 (the 2014 Regulations) provide some further insight into the kinds of expense categories that are readily recognised as reimbursable, being travel expenses, car mileage, information and communication technology expenses, and conference and training expenses.11 Otherwise, councils have scope to establish the criteria for reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses, together with the procedures by which they will be reimbursed, in their Council Expenses Policy.

The Act requires that councils must make available to councillors the resources and facilities reasonably necessary to enable them to effectively perform their role.12 The Act is not prescriptive in terms of what kinds of resources and facilities must be provided. Again, councils have the flexibility to address what resources and facilities will be provided, together with guidance on their correct usage, in their internal policies.

At the time of the survey and council audits, the majority  of councils addressed councillor allowances, resources and facilities together with expense reimbursement in their Councillor Reimbursement Policy.13 Under the Act, every council was required to adopt a Council Expenses Policy to govern the procedures to be followed in reimbursing out-of- pocket expenses by 1 September 2020.14

To be compliant with the new Act, a council’s expenses policy must:

  • apply to both councillors and members of delegated committees;
  • comply with any requirements prescribed by the regulations in relation to the reimbursement of expenses;
  • include reimbursement of childcare costs; and
  • provide for reimbursement of expenses incurred by councillors who are carers in a care relationship within the meaning of section 4 of the Carers Recognition Act 2012.15

Up until the new policy is adopted, the existing Councillor Reimbursement Policy continues to operate.16

Footnotes

2. Section 39 of the Local Government Act 2020

3. Section 42 of the Local Government Act 2020

4. Sections 40 and 41 of the Local Government Act 2020

5. Section 74A of the Local Government Act 1989 (repealed) and section 39(5) of the Local Government Act 2020

6. Sections 73A and 73B of the Local Government Act 1989 (repealed); section 39(6) of the Local Government Act 2020

7. Victoria Government Gazette, No. S 564 Monday 23 December 2019

8. Section 26A(3) of the City of Melbourne Act 2001 (repealed), section 13(3) of the City of Greater Geelong Act 1993 (repealed). See Victoria Government Gazette, No. S 459 Wednesday 13 November 2019

9. Section 39 of the Local Government Act 2020

10. Section 40(1) of the Local Government Act 2020

11. Section 14(2)(db) of the Local Government (Planning and Reporting) Regulations 2014

12. Section 42 of the Local Government Act 2020

13. Section 75B of the Local Government Act 1989 (repealed); section 39(6) of the Local Government Act 2020

14. Section 41(3) of the Local Government Act 2020

15. Section 41(2) of the Local Government Act 2020

16. Section 41(4) of the Local Government Act 2020

Reviewed 21 September 2020