NSW Government could introduce stiffer penalties for bad councillor behaviour

The NSW government has commissioned an independent review of the code of conduct for councillors, including whether they should face stiffer penalties for bad behaviour.

By a Government News Staff Writer

The review of the Model Code of Conduct will also look at ways of streamlining and reducing the cost of the complaints handling process.

Gary Kellar

The code sets standards of behaviour for the 1,300 councillors at the state’s 128 councils and is designed to ensure the ethical, accountable and transparent operation of local government.

“Residents rightly expect high standards of behaviour from their elected representatives and the NSW Government has zero tolerance for councillors who put petty politics and egos ahead of serving the local community,” local government minister Shelley Hancock said in a statement.

“The NSW Government is determined to ensure those elected representatives who breach community standards face the consequences.”

The review will examine the effectiveness of penalties available to councils, the Office of Local Government and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

It will also look at the processes for making code of conduct complaints, the timeliness of disciplinary action, and misconduct frameworks implemented in other jurisdictions.   

“The review will make recommendations for any legislative, policy and operational changes required to ensure NSW has the strongest system in the country to target bad behaviour and enforce high standards of conduct in our local councils,” Mrs Hancock said.

Local government specialist and former Logan City Council general manager Gary Kellar (pictured above) will carry out the review.

Mr Kellar was a member of the expert panel that examined Queensland’s local government framework in 2017.

The terms of reference for the independent review can be found here.

CCO comment: Here are two comments from under this story. We concur with the sentiments expressed;

Margaret Gunter says:

There needs to be far stiffer penalties for NSW local council management to ensure the ethical, accountable and transparent operation of local government. Their current Code of Conduct is so bland that it is impossible to hold incompetent and less than ethical council management personnel to account.
Even when their actions are in blatant long term breach of the Local Government Act and in contempt of decisions handed down by the Land and Environment court, there are no repercussions.
Consequently, ratepayers continuously have their rates increased and SRVs imposed to rectify the financial damage. Yet the highly paid management are subject to no repercussions – indeed, when they finally “depart”, ratepayers are sometimes forced to pay a severance penalty to get rid of them.Reply

rob webster says:

Seriously, this review should have been addressed years ago. As an ex Councillor i believe that its an area that should be addressed holistically, it should include Councillors, senior staff of councils and related government departments. Councillors quiet often come to the table lacking the experience and fiscal understanding of a multi million dollar organisation, with little or no training in governance and government policies
I would hope that the expert panel includes a legal advisor, current or ex Councillors and an independent expert ,and not loaded up with public servants!

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First published at Government News, Tuesday 15 June 2021. See; https://www.governmentnews.com.au/review-could-see-stiffer-penalties-for-councillors/

2 thoughts on “NSW Government could introduce stiffer penalties for bad councillor behaviour

  1. The link to the terms of reference offers a very incomplete précis of what is already required. This précis mentions management. Then nowhere in the Terms of Reference is there reference to paid public officials — notably: management.

    The meager, laughable thing is directed wholly to elected councillors.

  2. Based on the Coffs LGA experience, the code would serve well to place a clear definition on the convention relating to the Mayoral casting vote. A tied vote renders a motion lost unless the Mayor uses the privilege of the casting vote. On simple matters, exercising this privilege may work as a benefit. On contentious issues involving multi-millions of dollars, our experience shows this as disastrous! The British parliamentary tied vote on a BREXIT motion failed when the Speaker of the House refused to break the deadlock by using the casting vote, stating that the issue was too important to hinge on the Chair’s casting vote. Boundaries need to be created to prevent reckless use of this principle.

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