What Is A "Council" In Australia And England?

I was watching old episodes of Prisoner (Prisoner: Cell Block H) and old Australian soap opera and Judy who runs a halfway house says “We have to get council approval to sell things in the shop.” She’s always fretting about “council approval”

Now I was watching Keeping Up Appearences and Hyacinth mentions things like the “council” is going to raise taxes.

This is obviously some sort of governmental agency, but what exactly is it? Is it elected or is it like a city or town government in the United States?

It’s an elected local government.

Municipal Council.

In Australia, from my experience, it it the “local” council that looks after rubbish removal, dogs and cats, footpaths.

Up one notch is the State Govt who look after State Police Forces, Health, Education.

Top rung is the National Govt which looks after things that affect the nation such as Defence, Customs, Immigration and Taxes.

Constitutionally, the states are supposed to levy income taxes, but they gave that power up for the Great War and the feds aren’t giving it back.

Roads are the responsibility of all three levels of government - local streets are the councils’ job, main roads are the states’ responsibility and the commonwealth takes care of the highways.

As others have said, the local “council” is the third tier local government in Australia.

As **Cicero **notes, they’re responsible for local roads, zoning, building approvals, garbage collection, library services etc. They’re funded principally by rates paid by propertyowners.

An example is my local council, North Sydney Council.

So it’d correspond to an incororated city (town or village) in America?

Like a county, but without the responsibilities for police, fire brigades and schools.

ETA: this is an Australian council. the UK doesn’t have states, so councils’ responsibilities are at a much larger-scale level.

A council in this context is the local government authority. It’s elected exactly like any other layer of government. The council is commonly headed by a Mayor, although the equivalent position might be titled Shire Chairman, Senior Alderman and so forth in different locales.

Councils look after the local, day-to-day stuff: animal control and dog registration, local roads, water and sewage, public libraries, development zoning and approval etc. In England, for some reason, councils also traditionally had responsibility for providing low-cost public housing, hence you will often here references to council houses… and CHAVs.

Councils have a reputation of being the home of frustrated dictators and obstructionist bureaucrats; people who couldn’t succeed in “real” politics. Hand in hand with that goes an impression that they seek to stop people from doing almost anything at all, including dictating what they can and can’t sell in a shop. This reputation is largely undeserved in my experience. By their nature councils are concerned with regulating day-to-day life, and so they come into contact (and conflict) with people more often than other branches of government.

If you get the opportunity, look for an Australian documentary called Rats in the Ranks. It’s an excellent demonstration of a desperate political fight for a laughably small amount of power.

Nitpick- That is slightly misleading.

The Federal Govt imposed it’s own income tax in the Great War but didn’t assume responsibility for all income tax until the Second World War,

Not arguing with you here, but we do have one council that is quite large… Brisbane City Council.

I was speaking in terms of the responsibilities. Brisbane council isn’t responsible for things like social security payments.

I said I wasn’t arguing with you. And you are correct. :slight_smile:

Sure, sure - I was just noting the distinction for the internationals types that they get in this sort of place.

But can you imagine the differences in Queensland in the '70s and '80s if the filth were being run by the Brisbane council instead of by the state government?

I missed all that kerfuffle… I moved to brisbane in the early '90s… But from all reports, I dislike Joh… but lets get back to question at hand - councils.

It would correspond to the city council, board of aldermen, board of selectmen, county legislature, etc. in America.

In the context mentioned by the OP (and in real-life situations of general complaint), it can sometimes be a sort of conversational shorthand for ‘them’ - meaning whichever agency is responsible for this thing I don’t like - which may in reality be a parish council, a city, district or county council, the police, central government, or various regulatory bodies.

Literally, “the Council” is the governing body, i.e., the aldermen or councillors who meet regularly to govern the city, municipality, borough, etc. But it’s often used to refer to the local government body that’s run by that council. If a person says, “I complained to the council,” they probably did not attend a meeting of the council and address the whole governing body: they probably rang up, or went to the council offices or city hall, and complained to an employee of the local government corporation.

FWIW, there are city councils in at leas some American cities. New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans are examples. However, the colloquial references to local polititcians are different than they are in the UK or Australia – in the U.S., you’ll hear references to “the city” instead of “the council”. “City approval” instead of “council approval.”