Local government records

1. Council CEOs and responsibility for records

Council CEOs are responsible for ensuring their council makes and keeps full and accurate records under the Public Records Act 2002, and under the Local Government Act 2009.

They are also responsible for the safe custody of:

  • all records about the proceedings, accounts or transactions of the local government or its committees
  • all documents owned or held by the local government.

Find out more about the recordkeeping roles and responsibilities of CEOs.

2. Public records and council business

Records that document or relate to the administration of council business and the responsibilities of council employees, the mayor, and councillors are public records.

They are public records regardless of the format of the record or where the record is created, received or stored. A record's content determines whether it is a public record.

Councils need to have policies and procedures in place to capture and manage the public records of mayors and councillors.

See the joint QSA and CCC corruption prevention advisory Council records: a guideline for mayors, councillors, CEOs and government employees for an overview of recordkeeping requirements for councils.

Note: Records and information relating to political parties generated by mayors and councillors when they are not acting in their official capacity are not public records.

Note: The records outlined below are not the only public records created and received by local governments, rather they are examples of some of these public records.

3. Diaries of mayors and councillors

The diaries of local government mayors and councillors are public records and need to be managed by council.

These diaries include paper diaries, and digital diaries using programs or apps such as Outlook, or Google Calendar. 

Calendar or diary entries that do not record any significant or work-related information or are already captured in official business records (e.g. meeting agendas, minutes, file notes, reports, etc) may fall under a transitory record class in the General retention and disposal schedule.

The Local government sector retention and disposal schedule covers official mayoral and councillors work diaries.

Find out what diaries to keep and the best format to use for digital calendars.

Diaries of past CEOs, mayors and councillors

You will need to export and capture the diaries or calendars of any CEOs, mayors or councillors that are leaving the council and retain them for the relevant retention period.

The file format used needs to be fit for purpose and appropriate for how long the file needs to be kept.

Learn more about file formats for long-term digital records.

4. Mayor and councillor notebooks

Notebooks can be considered drafts or working notes, so long as any relevant information that needs to be kept is captured elsewhere (e.g. notes from a council meeting where council keeps minutes).

Where unique public records have been captured into mayors’ and councillors’ notebooks (i.e. not captured elsewhere), you will need to have processes in place to identify these records and capture them into your council’s recordkeeping system.

Note: You may need to capture and keep the entire notebook depending on your processes and the format of the notebook.

Councils will also need to ensure mayors and councillors are made aware of the procedure and their responsibilities under it.

5. Email and messaging apps

The Code of Conduct for councillors in Queensland requires mayors and councillors to only use official council electronic communication accounts (e.g. email or messaging accounts) when conducting council business.

Additionally, councils may issue their own policies about use of private emails. Wherever possible, employees should also avoid using private accounts.

Where records are created or received in private accounts or on personal devices, these are required to be transferred to official council accounts within 20 calendar days of creation or receipt.

Find out more about managing emails and managing public records in private accounts.

6. Social media

Your council’s official social media accounts will contain public records, which must be managed appropriately by your council.

Mayors and councillors may also have official social media accounts or private accounts (e.g. Facebook) containing public records that need to be kept by council.

The Public Records Act 2002 does not restrict the use of private devices or accounts for official business. However, the Councillor Code of Conduct states councillors are required to use only official communication accounts for council-related business. 

Find out more about managing social media records.

For more information on social media use by elected officials, see the Office of the Independent Assessor’s social media guide for elected council members in Queensland and the Councillor Code of Conduct.

7. Election records

The responsibility for running local government elections resides with the Queensland Electoral Commission.

Although election records can be sentenced under section 13.8 of the Local government sector retention and disposal schedule, we recommend local governments also consult with the Electoral Commission about the retaining and disposing of these records.

8. Records of council meetings

Records of council meetings are public records and need to be retained for the appropriate retention period under the 13.6 Council Meetings activity in the Local government sector retention and disposal schedule.

The format of these meeting minutes should be based on your business need.

Where a council meeting is recorded using audio or video (e.g. live streamed), and official meeting minutes are also created, the recordings do not need to be kept as the official record.

Live-streamed local council meetings, where official meeting minutes are created, may be sentenced under 13.6.5 or 13.6.6 in the Local government sector retention and disposal schedule.

If the meeting or council proceeding minutes need to be signed by the mayor and/or councillors to verify they are a true and accurate account of the meeting, this can be done digitally if your processes allow. Otherwise they can be printed and signed, and this physical version will become your master set.

Find out more about implementing digital signatures.

The master set of your council meeting proceedings are a permanent value record and need to be managed as a permanent record in readiness for transfer to QSA in the future.

Find out more about managing records of meetings and conversations and council meetings.

9. Registers of interest

Under the Local Government Act 2009, CEOs, mayors and councillors must declare all financial and non-financial interests, including the interests of specified persons related to them.

They must update their register of interest within 30 days after the interest arises or changes.

Failure to update a register of interests within the required timeframe can result in an offence with a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units under the Local Government Act 2009.

Registers and declarations of interest for mayors and councillors must be retained for ten years after last action as per 13.4.7 in the Local government sector retention and disposal schedule (480 v.4).

The disposal trigger of last action is the date the register was last updated or supposed to be updated.

If a register is not updated within the required 30 days, the registers still need to be retained for 10 years past the date it was supposed to be updated.

A failure to update a register of interest when changes arise does not mean that the register can be disposed of earlier.

The mayor must maintain the register of interests of the CEO and their related persons under the Local Government Regulation 2012.

More information on registers of interest, including statutory forms and upcoming legislation changes, can be found on the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs website.

Note: The Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2020 will come into effect on the 12 October 2020 and includes changes to register of interest and conflict of interest requirements.

10. Register of delegations

Delegating powers

The Local Government Act 2009 (sections 256 to 260) and the City of Brisbane Act 2010 (sections 237 to 240) allow local governments to delegate their powers by resolution to:

  • the mayor
  • the CEO
  • a standing committee or joint standing committee
  • the chairperson of a standing committee or joint standing committee
  • another local government for the purposes of a joint local government activity.

Brisbane City Council can also delegate its powers to the Establishment and Coordination Committee.

CEOs can delegate their powers to an appropriately qualified local government employee. However, there are certain powers that cannot be delegated by the CEO or mayor.

When a local government (except Brisbane City Council) delegates its powers to the CEO, the local government must review those delegations annually.

Establishment and retention of register of delegations

The CEO must establish a register of delegations that records all delegations made by the local government, mayor and the CEO.

Note: The Lord Mayor of Brisbane cannot delegate his/her powers to another councillor.

The delegations register must be available for inspection by the public and must contain specific information outlined in the legislation.

Registers of delegations are covered by the Local government sector retention and disposal schedule and need to be retained for 5 years after last action.

See the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs website for more information on delegating powers under the Local Government Act 2009 and the City of Brisbane Act 2010, and what information a register of delegations must include.

Find out more about delegating recordkeeping responsibilities.

11. Councillor conduct register

Local governments must keep and publish a councillor conduct register on their website in accordance with the Local Government Act 2009 and the City of Brisbane Act 2010.

The register must include:

  • orders made about the unsuitable meeting conduct of councillors at its local government meetings
  • decisions about the suspected inappropriate conduct of councillors referred to the local government
  • decisions about whether or not councillors engaged in misconduct or inappropriate conduct made by the conduct tribunal
  • complaints about the conduct of councillors dismissed by the assessor
  • decisions to take no further action in relation to the conduct of councillors investigated by the assessor.

When decisions are made about the conduct, the councillor conduct register must include specified details about the decision. For more information refer to the Local Government Act 2009.

The public may inspect the register or purchase a copy of an entry in the register, from the local government (except where it is part of a public interest disclosure).

12. Transferring local history records to a council library

You can transfer both permanent and temporary value public records to your local library if the library is part of your council, particularly if they are of historical significance to your council and the local area.

You do not need disposal authorisation from QSA for this as this is moving records within council and does not fall under the definition of the disposal of public records under the Public Records Act 2002.

These records continue to be public records and remain in the physical custody and legal responsibility of your council.

Records in the custody of a local library must continue to be managed as public records, even if temporary value records are retained past their minimum retention period.

Ensure that roles and responsibilities for managing any records are agreed and documented. This includes how information privacy issues, preservation and disposal of the records will be managed.

If you wish to transfer local history records to a local history or community group or other entity that is not part of council, this is a form of disposal and needs to be authorised by QSA.

See our advice on donating, selling or giving away records for more information.

Other local history records

Some local history records and information may not be public records and do not need to be managed as such. This can include newspapers, images, brochures, books, and personal documents from council residents. 

Any non-public records that are part of a library or local history collection are the responsibility of the library or local history group to manage as part of their collection.

They also remain private records even if they have been digitised for access and preservation purposes and stored on council servers or systems, or physically stored by council.

However, our advice on preserving public records can be used to help store, preserve and care for local history collections.

13. More information

QSA resources and advice

External resources and advice