TRANSPARENCY and taking councillors to task; Local Government minister David Templeman has major changes in mind for Perth councils.
The Local Government Act is currently undergoing its first review in 23 years, and amid the suspension of the City of Perth council, Mr Templeman is separately looking at action to address individual councillors in future.
“My greatest frustration as Local Government Minister is that there’s a mechanism in the act to deal with the council when they can’t fulfil functions on behalf of its ratepayers and residents,” he said.
“It doesn’t have a provision to deal with an individual who might through their actions, behaviour, lack of understanding of their role or indeed criminal action, alleged criminal action or inappropriate behaviour (bring the council into disrepute).
“There’s no capacity to deal with that person individually.”
Mr Templeman said he wanted to pursue legislation to that effect as soon as possible.
“The challenge is that behaviour can culminate in poisoning the entire organisation,” he said.
Local government is set for a shake-up across the board, with submissions closing this week for the first phase of the act review.
The phase is focusing on accountability, standards and making information available online; Community News reporters frequently hear suggestions of recording meetings raised in council chambers across the city.
“You can stream most things now; it’s not big technology, it’s not expensive technology,” Mr Templeman said.
“I don’t want to prescribe ‘you must do this’, but quite frankly I think it’s inevitable.
“Will that improve transparency? Yes. Will it improve, perhaps, the behaviour of some councillors during council meetings? Probably yes too.”
Mr Templeman said councillors could deflect a lot of criticism by embracing technology.
“If you get the mongrel ratepayer that comes in, and is so focused… they become totally focused, they’re living every hour of the day, it’s what they wake up for in the morning… at least if you’ve shown due process, then I think in the end those people are found out, if they’re just being vindictive or they have a vendetta, or their issue has been dealt with,” he said.
The next phase of the local government act review is set to begin later this year.