The role of the Office of Local Government is to provide a framework to enable councils to operate to a high standard.
Local councils are independent bodies, elected by and accountable to their communities and therefore we encourage councils to resolve most complaints at the local level.
Many people write to the Minister for Local Government and/or the Office of Local Government asking for the council to be directed to take or not take a particular course of action. However, under the legislation we have limited powers to intervene in the decision making and functions of individual councils.
This is why complaints should be made to the council in the first instance. Many problems ultimately have to be resolved by the council without outside involvement.
If you have tried to resolve your issue with council and have been unsuccessful, you can contact us by telephone to check whether we can assist you before putting your concern in writing. Our telephone number is 02 4428 4100.
We cannot assist with:
- Legal questions – information on legal services is available from the Legal Information Access Centre.
- Court appeal or review rights – we do not assist with matters that may be subject to review by a court.
- Development and planning decisions – you may wish to contact Planning, Industry and Environment.
- Rates and charges – the setting of rates and charges is a matter for the council.
- Corruption – contact the ICAC.
- Employment grievances – contact the Office of Industrial Relations, Unions NSW or a trade union.
- Duplication – we will not normally make enquiries where the complaint has also been referred to another more appropriate agency.
We have two statutory complaint handling roles.
First, we examine public interest disclosures made to the Deputy Secretary, Local Government, Planning and Policy under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. Second, we examine complaints alleging councillor misconduct. The types of matters we routinely investigate are:
- pecuniary interests / failure to disclose
- councillor misconduct
- systemic and serious deficiencies in council functions and operations
- serious non-compliance with the Act and regulations
Our investigative priorities are to focus on councils where there is evidence of systemic breakdowns in council operations. We assess all complaints based on their individual merits and a number of criteria including whether:
- the complaint falls within our jurisdiction to investigate
- there is sufficient prima facie evidence to substantiate the complaint
- the complaint raises an issue that, on our further assessment, may warrant further action
- the matter is frivolous, vexatious or is not made in good faith
- there are alternative means of resolving the issue
- the issues raised need to be investigated by another appropriate body
- it is in the public interest to investigate such an issue
- the matter occurred some time ago and it is unlikely that our intervention would provide a resolution
To avoid the duplication of resources, the Office of Local Government has entered into Memorandums of Understanding relating to the referral of complaint matters and the sharing of information with the NSW Ombudsman and the NSW Audit Office.
- MOU between NSW Ombudsman and Office of Local Government relating to the referral of complaint matters and the sharing of information – PDF
- MOU between NSW Audit Office and Office of Local Government relating to the referral of complaint matters and the sharing of information – PDF
- Managing Complaints About Local Councils Policy – 2012 – PDF
- Procedures for Managing Complaints About Local Councils – 2013– PDF