Part I - Framework for Local Government

LOCAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITIES

At a time when government's roles in the services they deliver and the way those services are delivered is rapidly evolving it is important to know what are and should be the responsibilities of local government. The division of responsibilities between governments should be based on the principle that local government is best able to respond to local needs and priorities.

Cities, towns, villages, district municipalities and regional districts throughout B.C. all provide local services to their communities. They don't all provide the same level or types of services but they do have two things in common:
  • they are directly accountable and readily accessible to the public they serve; and
  • their objective is to provide service effectively, efficiently and at an affordable cost.
These two principles underlie the basic policy on who should be responsible for serving for local needs:

1.1
LOCAL PUBLIC SERVICES SHOULD BE PROVIDED BY A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED, RESPONSIBLE, ACCOUNTABLE AND ACCESSIBLE LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

The public should know what local governments' responsibilities are and the responsibilities should be clearly set out in legislation. As times change, the needs of the community change and so local government responsibilities should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate to present circumstances.

1.2
THE POWERS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE ADEQUATE TO MEET LOCAL NEEDS. THE LEGISLATION THAT SETS OUT LOCAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITIES SHOULD BE REVIEWED REGULARLY AND AMENDED SO IT CONTINUES TO MEET THOSE NEEDS. WHEN LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS EMPOWERED TO CARRY OUT A RESPONSIBILITY, IT SHOULD BE DONE IN A CLEARLY WRITTEN STATUTE.

To ensure that local needs and priorities can be met by local government it must be master of its own house. An adequate and effective legislative framework must be provided within which it can carry out its duties. (policy in Part 2)

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY

Autonomy and accountability must accompany responsibility. Local government must have the freedom to decide how to act on its responsibilities. It must be independent of other government interference but remain accountable to the electorate in its ability to meet its responsibilities. Accordingly:

1.3
THE ULTIMATE DETERMINATION OF THE LOCAL PUBLIC INTEREST IN TERMS OF LOCAL RESPONSIBILITIES LIES WITH LOCALLY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES; INCLUDING THE FREEDOM TO DETERMINE THE LEVEL OF LOCAL SERVICES, EXPENDITURES AND TAXATION.

In order to preserve local autonomy, local government must have the "tools" to do the jobs it is responsible for. These "tools" are:
  • adequate and appropriate authority; and,
  • adequate and appropriate financial resources.

Authority

It is pointless to have a responsibility if the means of completing the task are not also available. Local government must be given the most adequate and effective legislative power to put into place what is responsible for.

1.4
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE THE NECESSARY LEGISLATIVE POWERS TO MEET ITS RESPONSIBILITIES, THE POWER TO ENSURE ITS POLICIES AND FINANCIAL PROGRAMS ARE MUTUALLY SUPPORTING, AND THE DISCRETION AND FLEXIBILITY TO DETERMINE THE MOST APPROPRIATE METHODS OF MEETING THE LOCAL NEEDS.

If decisions of local government are to have the desired results, local government authority must be respected by the community it represents. The general public must be assured that the decisions of those they elect to represent them will be respected and enforced throughout the community.

1.5
LOCAL GOVERNMENT MUST HAVE THE POWER TO ENFORCE ITS DECISIONS AND TO ESTABLISH EFFECTIVE DETERRENTS TO ENSURE ITS AUTHORITY IS RESPECTED.

Local government will be ultimately held accountable for its actions at the "ballot-box". However, there is a growing trend to hold local government responsible for the impacts of its actions (such as claims of nuisance actions) that are beyond its control. The responsibility of local government must be limited to those things over which it has control.

1.6
LOCAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY MUST BE LIMITED TO CASES WHERE NEGLIGENCE IS PROVEN.

Financial Autonomy

Over-riding virtually all activities of local government is the ever-present problem of raising the necessary revenues to meet their needs. One of the toughest decisions in local government is balancing the public's needs for basic services against the limited revenue sources available. Local government cannot be expected to meet local needs without adequate financial resources.

1.7
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO SUFFICIENT REVENUE TO SUPPORT LOCAL SERVICES.

There are three basic sources of local revenue:

• taxation on property and related grants in lieu of taxation;
• transfers from other governments; and,
• other forms of locally generated fees, licences and revenue from local enterprises.

On a Province-wide basis, approximately 60% of local government's financial needs are met from property taxation. Such taxation must be based on an appropriate and independently established assessment system so that all properties carry their fair share of tax, and B.C.'s present assessment system generally meets this requirement. The determination of the amount and distribution of taxes must remain the responsibility of those elected to local office. Other governments and their agencies must through their grants-in-lieu of taxes assume the same tax burden as the ordinary property tax-payer.

1.8
PROPERTY TAXATION DISTRIBUTION MUST BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT; IT SHOULD BE BASED ON ACTUAL VALUE ASSESSMENT AND GRANTS IN LIEU OF TAXES PAID BY OTHER GOVERNMENTS AND THEIR AGENCIES SHOULD BE PAID ON THE SAME BASIS AS THE ORDINARY TAXPAYER.

In recognition that local governments provide services to people in addition to services to property, a revenue-sharing mechanism through which Provincial revenues are shared with local governments must be maintained. It should be predictable in amount and tied to anticipated Provincial revenues and to the general economy. The distribution of shared revenue should preserve the greatest degree of local autonomy in deciding how the funds are best used in a given area.

1.9
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO A SHARE OF PROVINCIAL REVENUES WHICH SHOULD BE PREDICTABLE AS TO THE AMOUNT AND THE TIMING OF ITS ANNOUNCEMENT AND THE MAJOR PORTION OF SHARED REVENUE SHOULD BE IN UNCONDITIONAL GRANTS.

Finally, it must be recognized as a basic principle, that responsibilities and the financial resources to meet those responsibilities are related. As local responsibilities change, so should the access to financial resources.

1.10
ACCESS TO ADDITIONAL REVENUE SHOULD BE PROVIDED WHEN LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS ASSIGNED NEW RESPONSIBILITIES.

Meta Navigation