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A ward committee can be set up for each ward councillor to assist and advise the councillor and improve public participation. Ward committees can be set up in category A and B municipalities where the ward committee model is being used. Ward committees are mainly advisory committees which can make recommendations on any matter affecting the ward within a Category B or Category A municipality. The municipal council makes the rules that guide the ward committees. The rules say how the members of the ward committee will be appointed, how often ward committee meetings will take place and the circumstances under which a member of a ward committee can be told to leave the committee.
The purpose of a ward committee is to:
- get better participation from the community to inform council decisions;
- make sure that there is more effective communication between the council and the community;
- assist the ward councillor with consultation and report-back to the community; and
- advise the ward councillor on issues and development in the community.
Structure of Ward Committees
A ward committee consists of the councillor who represents the ward, as elected in the local government elections a maximum of 10 people from the ward who are elected by the community they serve. Women should be equally represented on ward committees. The councillor is the chairperson of the ward committee. Members of the ward committee must participate as volunteers and are not paid for this work.
Role of the Ward Councillor on the Ward Committee
A ward councillor is directly elected to represent and serve the people in a specific ward. The ward councillor should make sure that the interests of the people in the ward are represented as properly as possible. The ward councillor should be in touch with the issues in the area, understand the key problems and monitor development and service delivery. In committees, caucus and council meetings, the ward councillor should act as a spokesperson for the people in the ward. The ward councillor is the direct link between the council and the voters. H/she makes sure that voters are consulted and kept informed about council decisions, development and budget plans that affect them. People can also bring their problems to the ward councillor and h/she should deal with these in an appropriate way, for example, by taking up matters with council officials.
Role of the Ward Committee
The main role of the ward committee is to make sure that voters are involved in and informed about council decisions that affect their lives. The ward committees should be set up in a way that it can reach most sectors and areas in the ward. The ward committee’s main tasks are to communicate and consult with the community in respect of development and service plans. It has no formal powers however to force the council to do anything. The council should provide support, for example, providing publicity for meetings, giving financial support, to enable ward committee to do their work.
Main tasks of Ward Councillors and Ward Committees
Ward councillors and committees must know their communities and the people they represent. They should know:
- who the people are in the ward (spread of age groups, gender, employment status);
- what problems they experience and their needs;
- what their attitudes and opinions are towards council plans and proposals;
- the environment of the ward (types of housing, services provided or not provided, for example, water, sanitation and electricity, schools, hospitals, clinics, shops, markets, factories, places of worship, community halls, access to transport); and
- what is happening in the community (what organisations or bodies exist in the community: political parties, cultural groups, civic forums, business, youth organisations, women’s organisations, NGOs, traditional leaders, gangs, crime, sport, school governing bodies, etc)
Ward councillors and committee members can find out more about their communities through general community meetings and direct consultation (going door-to-door and/or conducting a survey). They should also keep up to date with developments in the council in order to pass this information on to people in their ward.
In the 2008 Local Government Laws Amendment Act, an amendment of section 73 of Act 117 of 1998 (Structures Act) was made to ensure that ‘out of pocket’ expenses (of ward committee members) must be paid from the budget of the municipality in question. Metro or local councils must develop a policy and determine criteria for calculating the ‘out of pocket’ expenses and can allocate funds and resources to enable ward committees to perform their functions, exercise their powers and undertake development in their wards within the framework of the law.