The Department of Local Government [IV] was created on 6 April 1995 when the Department of Local Government and Co-operatives was divided and the Registry of Co-operatives was transferred to the Department of Consumer Affairs.(1) The Department’s principle function is to "provide a policy and legal framework for local councils which reflects current community needs and expectations and allows councils to develop effective management structures and processes to meet the needs of the
The branches of the Department were: Corporate Services; Executive Support; Finance Management; Information Services; Investigations and Review; Legal Services and Policy and Research.
The role of the Finance Management Branch was to monitor the council's finances and to set standards for local government financial control and accounting; council borrowings, investment and financial policy. The branch also collected information and conducted research and policy development on financial and rating issues.
The Information Services Branch provided information management and technology advisory support services to internal and external clients.
The Investigations and Review Branch assessed complaints and allegations concerning the conduct and activities of councils, elected members and council staff, including pecuniary interest matters. The process involved both preliminary enquiries and special investigations. The branch also identified areas of local government administration requiring more effective controls and provided advisory and educational information in relation to best practice in a range of matters related to complaints and probity.
In addition to providing legal and policy advice to the Minister and the Executive, the Legal Services Branch prepared legislation and amendments and was responsible for constitutions, boundary alterations, elections, and meetings. It also assisted with regulations affecting a number of local government responsibilities including dogs, dividing fences, swimming pools, alcohol free zones, and leases. The branch advised regarding Freedom of Information, and assisted the Pecuniary Interest Tribunal, Remuneration Tribunal, and the Boundaries Commission. It also advised regarding National competition policy.
The Policy and Research Branch identified critical issues in Local Government management, developed policy and conducted research to lead towards best practice in the local government sector. The Branch consulted with several other agencies to ensure that Local Government issues were established in the relevant context. It also assisted councils with optimum implementation of Local Government legislation. The branch took responsibility for assisting councils in dealing with Aboriginal issues, Equal Employment Opportunity, State of the Environment Reports and annual reporting.
The Department assisted the 177 general purpose councils in New South Wales to adopt the extensive management and operational changes required under the Local Government Act 1993 (No.30, 1993).(3) The Act was amended by the Local Government Legislation Amendment Act 1995 (No. 12, 1995) to allow councils to levy a minimum rate for future years and to allow for the withholding of councillors fees. The Act also allowed for the grouping of candidates for an election. The Act also amended the City of Sydney Act 1988 to allow for the Lord Mayor to be popularly elected.
In November 1996, the Local Government (Approvals) Regulation was amended to grant exemption from place of public entertainment approval of certain buildings, such as halls and classrooms, used for public meeting purposes. (4)
In June 1997, the Local Government (Approvals) Regulation was amended to allow the adoption of a new performance based Building Code of Australia. The Local Government Amendment Act 1997 (Act No. 61, 1997) commenced on 18 July 1997 and made further provisions with respect to: motions to rescind, alter or negate council resolutions; delegate powers of councils and general managers; waiver by councils of approved fees; sale of land by councils for unpaid rates and charges.
The Local Government Amendment (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Act 1999 (Act No.38, 1999) expanded the procedure for amalgamating local government areas, particularly on a voluntary basis and for altering the boundaries of areas. A number of Regulations were repealed and remade with effect from 1 September 1999 and these included the Local Government (Tendering) Regulation, Local Government (Orders) Regulation, Local Government (Approvals) Regulation, Local Government (Rates and Charges) Regulation, Local Government (Financial Management) Regulation, and the Local Government (Water Services) Regulation. (5)
By the year 2000, the Department consisted of the following divisions: Business Services, Executive Support, Finance Management, Information Services, Legal Services, Investigations and Review, Policy and Research. (6)
From 1 July 2009 the Department of Local Government was abolished as a Division of the Government Service and its functions were transferred to the new Principal Department, the Department of Premier and Cabinet. (7)
1. NSW Government Gazette, Special Supplement, 5 April 1995, p.1867.
2. Annual Report for the NSW Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1997, p.7.
3. Annual Report of the Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1995, p.4.
4. Annual Report for the NSW Department of Local Government for the year ended 30 June 1997, p.4.
5. Annual Report for the NSW Department of Local Government for 1999/2000, pp.26-27.
6. Annual Report for the NSW Department of Local Government for 1999/2000, p.15.
7. Public Sector Employment and Management (Departmental Amalgamations) Order 2009 (2009 No 352) cls. 25; notified on NSW Legislation website, 27 July 2009.