What are subcouncils and why do we need them?
The City of Cape Town provides residents with a variety of municipal services such as health, water, wastewater and sewerage systems, roads and traffic safety services, and housing sites and services. To judge whether it is doing this effectively, the City needs to listen to what residents have to say. It does this via its subcouncils - specialised decentralised governmental structures that give residents a say in local government.
There are 24 subcouncils in Cape Town. Collectively, these exercise over 90 functions and powers delegated directly to them by the City Council. Some of these include:
- Encouraging residents to get involved in decisions on the City's policies and legislation, such as draft by-laws, proposed policies, its annual budget and its 5 year plan
- Monitoring City service delivery, resolving residents’ complaints and enquiries
- Supervising the spending of ward allocations (money that the City gives to subcouncils) on service delivery issues
- Dealing with referrals from the City’s portfolio committees about policies, by-laws and regulations
- Making recommendations to Council on matters affecting their areas
- Authorising business licences
- Adopting rules of order
In this way, they help the City to better meet the needs of Cape Town's residents.
Subcouncil meetings are open to the public. They are held at least once a month except during recess, which is usually in the school holidays. They may meet more often in the event of an urgent matter needing attention. Subcouncil meetings are widely advertised. To view a list of upcoming subcouncil meetings, click on the relevant date on the calendar located on the upper right side of the page. Your subcouncil's calendar can also be found on your subcouncil's page. Click on the 'My subcouncil' link to locate this easily. Anyone can apply to the subcouncil manager for an opportunity to address a subcouncil meeting on any issue.
Decisions about issues are taken by a majority vote at meetings. If an equal number of votes are cast for and against any particular issue, the subcouncil chairperson may exercise a casting vote in addition to their vote as a member.
How do subcouncils work?
Besides communicating the views, needs and issues of residents, subcouncils also deal with community and service issues. Public participation is a vital aspect of subcouncil work. Residents are consulted via email, newsletters and public meetings. Each subcouncil is responsible for keeping an up-to-date database of all stakeholders in its area, including ratepayers' and civic associations, and works closely with community organisations.
Subcouncils can make recommendations on any matter affecting the area they represent to Council (including Mayco). They can also advise Council as to the duties and powers they require. Subcouncils can determine their own procedures, subject to the directions of Council.
Cape Town’s subcouncils are governed by the City’s Cape Town Subcouncil By-law, 2003, and subsequent amendments thereto. Council has delegated certain powers (click here for details) and functions to subcouncils.
How can I communicate with my subcouncil?
First, find your subcouncil (by map or suburb). If you already know your subcouncil number or name, first talk to your ward councillor. You can find his/her details on your subcouncil's home page (click on the 'My subcouncil' button in the menu located at the top left hand side of this page to locate your subcouncil). You can also address a subcouncil meeting yourself, but you need to apply to your subcouncil manager beforehand.
Each subcouncil is managed by a subcouncil manager, who is a municipal staff member appointed to co-ordinate the subcouncil's operations. The subcouncil manager is responsible for ensuring that projects are implemented, and for organising subcouncil meetings. He or she is the official communicator with the subcouncil governance structure, and works closely with ward councillors and the subcouncil's chairperson to compile the annual budget and implement projects. Most importantly, the subcouncil manager is the Council's contact person for ratepayers.
The subcouncil chairperson is the political leader of the subcouncil, and is responsible for deciding when and where the subcouncil meets, subject to Council's direction. He or she may also convene a meeting if requested to do so by the majority of the subcouncil members. The subcouncil chairperson presides at subcouncil meetings. The subcouncil chairperson is supported by the subcouncil manager in the execution of his or her administrative duties.
Subcouncils are made up of groups of neighbouring wards - usually between three and seven. There are 111 wards in Cape Town, with between 13 000 - 15 000 voters each. Wards are represented by a ward councillor, who is elected by the community. Each of these councillors is a member of a subcouncil and a member of a portfolio committee. Subcouncils are comprised of these councillors and by councillors drawn from the proportional representation list - according to party strength. One of the councillors serves as the subcouncil chairperson, and there is a full-time subcouncil manager supported by clerical staff who are employed by the City. Find your councillor on your subcouncil's home page, which can be accessed via the 'About your subcouncil' button on the menu located on the top left hand side of this page.