Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Task, Services and the Challenges before our newly elected Local Councillors

The Task, Services and the Challenges before our newly elected Local Councillors

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.


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.


Things councils need to consider when carrying out their responsibilities

·         to provide directly or on behalf of other levels of government, after due consultation, adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community and to ensure that those services and facilities are managed efficiently and effectively

·         to exercise community leadership

·         to promote and to provide and plan for the needs of children

·         to properly manage, develop, protect, restore, enhance and conserve the environment of the area for which it is responsible, in a manner that is consistent with and promotes the principles of ecologically sustainable development

·          to have regard to the long term and cumulative effects of its decisions

·          to bear in mind that it is the custodian and trustee of public assets and effectively plan for, account for and manage the assets for which it is responsible

·         to engage in long-term strategic planning on behalf of the local community

·         to exercise its functions in a manner that is consistent with and promotes social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights

·         to facilitate the involvement of councillors, members of the public, users of facilities and services and council staff in the development, improvement and co-ordination of local government

·         to keep the local community and the Central government (and through it, the wider community) informed about its activities

·         to ensure that, in the exercise of its regulatory functions, it acts consistently and without bias, particularly where an activity of the council is affected

·         to be a responsible employer.

In reality councils do far more than this. They pursue their community's visions and ideas, provide leadership, and express local ideas and concerns about important issues to other levels of Government. They have more divined responsibilities mentioned on the Local Government law Particularly Xeerka Is Maamulka Gobolada iyo Degmooyinka JSL. (Law No: 23/2002) which has been revised and Signed by the President of Somaliland in 2007.

A community also often looks to its council to protect it from potential natural dangers, and for support in times of need.


Services and functions should councils provide


Councils provide a very wide range of services and functions. Broadly, these may be grouped into five categories:


Planning for Strategic development
Providing and Maintaining Infrastructure
Protecting the Environment
Supporting Community Development
Safeguarding Public Safety


 Examples of services that fall into each of these categories are below. These represent a sample only. Councils provide other services which are listed in Law No: 23/2002.

-      Providing and maintaining infrastructure

Providing an appropriate and affordable level of infrastructure is one important contribution a council makes to its community. For example, councils provide and maintain local roads, bridges, public car parks, footpaths, sporting fields, parks and art galleries. Councils must consult with their local community about providing and maintaining these public assets.

-      Planning for sustainable development

Councils have a major role in providing long-term strategic planning for a local government area as well as town planning, zoning and sub-divisions. In addition councils are responsible for processing most development applications, for building site and compliance inspections, building regulations and connections to water and sewerage.

-      Protecting the environment

Councils have a role in helping to protect the environment. They regularly assess the state of their local environment, provide environmental programs and use their regulatory powers to prevent pollution or restore degraded environments.

They carry out activities such as garbage collection and recycling, street cleaning, regulating parking, controlling dogs and cats (or 'companion animals'), controlling noxious weeds, regulating pollution and building control.

-      Supporting community development

Councils regularly consult with and assess the needs of their community with a view to supporting community development. They provide a range of services, including some aimed at groups in the community with special needs. Community services include libraries, swimming pools, playground facilities and child care centres.

-      Safeguarding public health

Councils help maintain high standards of public health and reduce the risk of exposure to a wide range of diseases through activities such as food shop inspections, waste disposal, pest and vermin control and hazardous material containment.


The Challenges before the Newly Elected Councillors:

High Population: Somaliland's liberalised economy has attracted a high number of businesses to the Regional Capital Cities particularly  The Capital of Hargeisa. Those businesses have attracted a high number of potential workers and their families to the city. Unofficial estimates put the daytime population of Hargeisa in the 1 million to 1.5 million range.
Corruption: Corruption is a global problem, but over the last ten years in particular, the officials of the now defunct Hargeisa, Burao and Borama City Councils have been particularly corrupt. Public property has been disposed of for personal gain and millions of Dollars have been siphoned off into personal accounts.
Garbage: The A Grade Cities include the Capital of Hargeisa generates an estimated 500 to 100 tonnes of garbage daily, but has capacity to pick up less than ¼  a day. This has caused garbage to accumulate in neighborhoods, on street corners and in local markets with resultant health risks and other environmental concerns.
Potholes: Most of City streets were constructed in the 1950s and 1970s. The majority have never undergone any repairs or renovatons since then. The city's roads outside the central business district are heavily potholed and in a high state of disrepair.
Sewer service: Due to rapid population expansion, general disregard of proper urban planning and failure to adhere to existing construction guidelines and failure to make sewer system leads to the City population to extremely health risks.
Construction: The economic boom has led to a mushrooming of both commercial and residential construction. However, due to either (a) total disregard of existing laws governing construction or (b) selective and lax enforcement of those laws, many buildings are built in road reserves, in gazetted wetlands and often without following established construction specifications. On a regular basis, buildings under construction collapse, killing or injuring construction workers, bystanders or both.
Traffic management: Due to poor planning and lax enforcement of existing traffic regulations, combined with crumbling infrastructure, the traffic jams in Hargeisa are particularly chronic, intractable and a drag on the country's economy.
Health services: Due to selective and lax application of existing public health laws, many public eating places lack health licenses or regular health inspections.
Environment: There has been no effort to mitigate the environmental degradation visited upon the city by the rapid population explosion, including the destruction of green spaces and wetlands. Noise pollution and smog are also of particular concern.
Stray livestock: Stray cattle, goats, dogs and chicken are common in the Cities. These animals pose traffic and other environmental concerns, but are also a health risk.
Management of markets: The management of the city's markets is a highly controversial topic, but for the councillors it is very important to have knowledge about it.


Some skills, knowledge and attributes which will help the new Councillors


While you don't need any special formal qualifications to be a councillor, having or being able to develop the following skills, knowledge and attributes will help the Councillors in their role


Good communication skills

This includes good listening and interpersonal skills, public speaking skills, the ability to accept alternative points of view as well as the ability to negotiate, mediate and resolve conflict.

Good problem solving and analytical skills

This includes being able to get to the bottom of an issue and to think of different ways to resolve it, including advantages and disadvantages of each.

Good teamwork skills

This includes being able to work with others in meetings and on committees and being able to complete any tasks on time that you agree to do.



Good organisational skills

This includes being able to plan and manage your time, keep appointments and deadlines, make priorities and manage stress.

Knowledge or understanding of strategic planning and financial planning and reporting processes

This includes strategic management and understanding the budgetary process and financial reports.

Ability to engage with your community

This includes why this is important and ways to consult such as through meetings, the media, the internet, public forums, debates and surveys.

Knowledge or understanding of social justice principles

This includes why it is important to make sure all people in the community are treated equally, have the right to be heard and are able to participate in public forums and events if they choose to. Groups of people whose voices are not always heard include  the Aboriginal, people with a disability, older people, women and young people.

Knowledge and understanding of local government functions

This includes, for example, land use planning, environmental management or community development and services.

Understanding of relevant State Government legislation

This includes, for example, the Local Government law 1997 and the Environmental Laws.

Leadership qualities

This includes, for example, attributes such as energy and optimism, motivation, resilience, confidence, assertiveness, strategic thinking, advocacy, networking, active listening and negotiating.

Ethical and accountable behaviour

This includes being able to follow a code of conduct that involves, among other things, acting in the best interests of the community as a whole, transparent decision-making and accountability.


         Abdi Halim Mohamed Musa

Secretary-General and Acting Chairman of UDUB Party

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