The Local Government Act and other legislation give the municipalities broad powers and responsibilities. The municipalities have long held primary responsibility for the provision of education and healthcare. In recent years, central government has increased the responsibilities of municipalities. The state grants and subsidies cover some 20 per cent. of the local government total expenditure.
The municipal sector is also an important provider of public transport, telecommunications, power, water and sewerage. Many of these functions are carried out through corporations and companies owned or controlled by municipalities and through municipal federations such as hospitals and educational institutions.
In addition to the provision of utilities and services, municipalities have important regulatory functions. They have a monopoly over building permissions, which give municipalities effective control over town and land-use planning. They are also direct owners of a large number of public buildings and public service institutions.
Apart from administrative buildings, municipalities own premises devoted to art and culture, sports, facilities, schools, hospitals, medical centres, homes for the aged and day-care centres.
Municipalities own industrial and commercial premises, which are leased to the private sector. Municipality-owned property companies own most social rental housing units.