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Local and Regional Councils

Local Government in Malta – Fact sheet

STATISTICS:

Last Local Elections held: May 2019, turnout: 62.7%

Next local elections to be held in May 2024

No. of Local Councils:  68

No. of Local Councillors in Malta and Gozo:  464

No. of Women Councillors: 58 (26.5%)

WOMEN MAYORS: 11 (16%)

LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN MALTA

Malta is a unicameral parliamentary republic with two tiers of government: national and local, including five regional councils (to increase to 6 Regional Councils in November 2021). Local Government is enshrined in Malta’s Constitution and is governed by the Local Government Act (Chapter 363, Laws of Malta). Legal responsibility for local government rests with the Minister responsible for local government.

The Local Government Division, within the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, is responsible for the control, co-ordination, supervision and monitoring of the functions of Local Government, including financial and procurement compliance by local and regional councils, as well as to assist the Ministry in the formulation of strategies, policies and legislation as may be required from time to time.

LEGAL BASIS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Constitutional provisions

Local government is enshrined in Malta’s constitution.  Article 115A of the Constitution states that ‘The State shall adopt a system of local government whereby the territory of Malta shall be divided into such number of localities as may by law be from time to time determined, each local authority to be administered by a local council elected by the residents of the locality and established and operating in terms of such laws as may from time to time be in force.’

The functions, operations and legal powers of local government emanate from the Local Government Act (Chapter 363, Laws of Malta). This legislation may be accessed from: https://legislation.mt/Legislation .

Main legislative texts

The Local Government Act  is the main legislative text, together with its subsidiary legislation that include:  Human Resources Regulations, Financial Regulations, Procurement Regulations, Audit Regulations.

STRUCTURE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Malta’s system of local government in its present state was set up in 1993. Malta ratified the European Charter of Local self-Government of the Council of Europe in the same year. Malta also ratified the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local self-Government in January 2018. The Local Government Act gives the minister responsible for local government the power to devolve functions to local authorities, and the last two decades have seen a gradual decentralisation of powers and services. 

Regional structures were introduced in the local government set up in 2009.  In 2019, these Regional Councils’ powers and responsibilities were considerably increased.

Ministerial oversight

Following the adoption of the 2003 amendment to the Local Councils Act, the Department for Local Government (DLG) (Monitoring and Support) (formerly the Department for Local Government) within the Ministry responsible for Local Government has the responsibility for monitoring all local authorities (regional  and  local councils.) to ensure that they operate within the law. It is also tasked with supporting them to function more effectively, and spearheading devolution and decentralisation. The department administers statutory funding to local councils. In 2020, these responsibilities have been assigned to the Director General within the Local Government Division. 

The Minister can devolve further powers to local authorities by means of an order in the Government Gazette and can request information on any local authority’s financial administration. In serious cases of a council breaching its financial responsibilities, the President, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, has the power to intervene and dissolve a council. In June 2009, a ‘Code of Good Practice for Local Government’ was issued and distributed to all members of local authorities. This code has now been incorporated as a Schedule to the Local Government Act.

The Monitoring Unit of the Department for Local Government (Monitoring and Support) monitors the administrative funcitons of local and regional councils with a view to ensure compliance. A newly set up directorate responsible for Finance and Procurement compliance carries out monitoring and investigations into alleged finance and procurement irregularities.

ELECTIONS

All elections are overseen by Electoral Commission of Malta.

Voting system

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Elec

ted representatives

In the latest local elections, citizens over the age of sixteen could stand for election. The number of councillors in each council depends on its population: five councillors for up to 4,999 inhabitants: seven for 5,000–9,999, nine for 10,000–14,999, 11 for 15,000–19,999 and 13 for populations of 20,000 and over.

The Minister can intervene and declare a council seat vacant if a Councillor does not attend for six consecutive meetings or is absent for more than one-third of meetings within a six-month period. The Minister exercises this power after the council has resolved that a Councillor has failed to attend for such a period without the council approving that such absence was justifiable.

SYSTEMS FOR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Legal requirements

The Local Government Act makes provision for all council meetings to be open to the public and facilitates the engagement of the media to report the proceedings. In addition, all council meetings are streamed online live. The Act also states that a council must hold a public consultation if either the council deems it appropriate, or a petition is submitted signed by one-fifth of the electorate of a council area of more than 3,000 registered voters (or one-quarter of the electorate in the case of a council area with less than 3,000 registered voters). In addition, each year every local council is legally bound to hold a locality meeting to discuss the financial estimates and a five-year Work Plan for the locality.

ICT use in citizen engagement

A local government e-government strategy is currently being rolled out in line with national policies. This includes the introduction of a mobile app that facilitates interaction between local citizens and their local authority. It also includes a uniform e-platform that would incorporate a central customer care system which allows for queries/complaints to be channelled to the relevant source and a reply given to the individual within a reasonable time. Measures are underway to implement the concerns raised in a National Audit Report regarding ICT within Local Government in Malta.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATIONS

There are two associations of local government in Malta (described below), one representing the elected local representatives and the other the local authorities’ executive secretaries. Both receive funding from national government.

The Local Councils Association

The Local Councils Association (LCA) was set up under the Local Government Act by means of subsidiary legislation to promote the common interests of local councils and represent them on international bodies concerned with local government. The association is recognised in law and membership is voluntary.

ANSEK

The National Association of Local Councils’ Executive Secretaries (ANSEK) was set up in November 1994 as the association for local council executive secretaries. Its aim is to promote their interests and provide training and support for its members. Membership of ANSEK is also voluntary.​