Councillors could face ten-year ban under rules

Councillors could face ten-year ban under rules

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Badly behaved councillors across WA could face 10-year suspensions, with Local Government Minister John Carey announcing the final package of reforms to the Local Government Act 1995, following a review of public submissions.

The reforms are based on the findings and recommendations of a number of reports and consultation undertaken over the past five years, and represent the most significant change to local government in Western Australia since the Local Government Act 1995 was introduced more than 25 years ago.

More than 200 submissions were received during the most recent consultation process, which highlighted broad support for the reforms, and will inform work to deliver major improvements to the system of local government in WA.

While there are a number of changes, including the introduction of local government monitors under the direction of a new inspector of Local Government, mandatory recording of council meetings and live streaming for larger tier one and two local governments – meaning the City of Gosnells will be forced into live streaming – tighter rules and clearer definitions regarding confidential meetings and the introduction of parental and medical leave entitlements for elected members, it is the tough new penalties that draw they most interest.

Councillors will face three-month suspensions for serious breaches of the Act and 10-year bans from local government elected office for a third strike.

These breaches would include failure to declare an interest (financial or proximity), disclosing member not to participate (where there is an interest, financial or proximity), failure to vote by a member, failure to submit an annual return, failure to declare a gift, giving false or misleading information (in a return or in an interest disclosure), improper use of information (to gain an advantage or disadvantage or cause detriment) and breach of confidentiality (relating to a complaint).

A Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries [DLGSC] spokesperson said the department is unable to comment in relation to specific details of individual complaints, but confirmed that 170 serious breach complaints had been received in the last three years.

“The majority of complaints for this period relate to the financial provisions of the Act, including alleged breaches of section 5.65 – failure to declare an interest (financial or proximity), section 5.67 – disclosing member not to participate (where there is an interest, financial or proximity) and section 5.76 – failure to submit an annual return,” the spokesperson said.

The Minister for Local Government has established a new working group made up of representatives from across the sector, to inform the implementation of reforms, and the development of regulations to support the new laws.

Full detail on all the reforms can be found at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries website: https://www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/lgactreform

The Government plans to introduce the legislation to Parliament by the end of the year.