Changes to Local Government Act in pipeline

Local Government Minister David Templeman.
Local Government Minister David Templeman.

GIFTS, behaviour, training and access to information have all be targeted as the State Government rolls out the first phase of changes to the Local Government Act.

It what is the first major review of the Local Government Act in two decades, the changes aim to modernise the Act, reduce red tape and create the efficient and effective councils residents expect.

Drafting of an amendment bill has begun and Local Government minister David Templeman said it was “an important step forward”.

“We have listened to the community and we know that their expectations of local governments have changed and the legislative framework under which they operate needs to reflect this,” he said.

“These reforms will build council member capacity, strengthen governance, improve efficiency and provide greater flexibility for local governments in determining the best ways to communicate with their communities.”

City of Armadale chief executive Ray Tame said the City supported changes to gifts, standards of behaviour and improved access to information, but said mandatory training was unnecessary.

“The City has always encouraged training for its councillors however it does not support mandatory training,” he said.

“The role of councillor is difficult enough in the modern era, we have to make it simpler, not so complex that no member of the public will seek office.”

City of Gosnells chief executive Ian Cowie said the City welcomed the review, which was “well overdue”.

“The City is optimistic that the review will lead to reforms that modernise local government and remove legislative provisions that lead to inefficiencies and unnecessary costs,” he said.

“The City is currently assessing how closely the legislative provisions match the City’s positions on the consultation document.

“That said, the intent behind a number of the key changes is supported.”

Visit www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/LGAReview for a list of phase one changes.

Key changes to be implemented under phase one

Gifts

  •        Council members and CEOs will be prohibited from receiving gifts that are intended to influence decision-making or a perceived conflict of interest
  •        Gifts received by council members and CEOs in their official role valued at $300 or more must be declared within 10 days of receipt
  •        Council members will have to declare a conflict of interest if they have received a gift or gifts over $300 from any person who has a matter come before council. They will not be able to vote on the matter or participate in the meeting.

Universal training

  •        Online induction for candidates so they better understand the role of a council member and laws covering election campaigning
  •        Formal training for all council members to be completed within 12 months of election
  •        A requirement for councils to develop and report on a continuing professional development program for elected members.

Standards of behaviour

  •        Introduction of a mandatory Code of Conduct applicable to all council members and candidates
  •        Greater transparency with adverse findings by the Standards Panel against a council member to be tabled at the council’s next ordinary council meeting.

Improved access to information

  •        Flexibility for public notice requirements allowing new technologies to be used
  •        More information to be published on a local government’s website
  •        CEO total benefits package and council member fees and allowances to be published in the local government’s annual report.

CEO recruitment and performance review

  •        Minimum standards to be adopted by local governments for CEO recruitment, selection, performance review and termination.