Queensland councils are determined to be leaders in transparency and accountability to guarantee public confidence and trust.
The LGAQ Policy Executive has endorsed the following proposals to guide the local government sector’s strong commitment to demanding the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of local government operations.
10 Point Plan
- Clarification that donations/gifts are to remain on registers of interests for two terms of council (current and previous term).
- Mandatory pre-election briefings for new candidates (excluding sitting councillors).
- Mandatory, high-quality and practical post-election training for all elected members.
- LGAQ-run community awareness campaign on local government planning role.
- Introduction of a statutory provision to automatically stand down councillors charged with an indictable offence, at full remuneration until proven guilty.
- Compulsory register of interests for candidates seeking election.
- Campaign expenditure limits set at $2 per enrolled voter for mayoral elections and $1 per enrolled voter for councillor elections, with upper expenditure limits (“ceilings”) of $200,000 for mayoral elections and $50,000 for councillor elections and lower expenditure limits (“floors”) of $20,000 for mayoral elections, $15,000 for councillor elections in undivided councils and $5,000 for councillor elections in divided councils.
- Donations or gifts above $500 on a register of interests to be treated the same as a Material Personal Interest.
- Open data and governance innovation initiatives provided by the LGAQ, most particularly Ready, Set, Go benchmarking service being made public from October 2018.
- Better Councils, Better Communities – public education campaign run by the LGAQ.
UPDATE: New local government legislation
- Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 1 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018; and
- Local Government (Councillor Complaints) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
Legislation can be found here: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/whats-new
UPDATEThe Belcarra Bill received royal assent on 21 May and has entered into force (except for the property developer donation provisions which will commence by proclamation at a date TBC). The Councillor Complaints Bill will also commence by proclamation in December.The Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs has issued two bulletins with guidelines to assist elected members comply with the new requirements, particularly in relation to management of conflicts of interest.
- makes unlawful the making and acceptance of political donations made by or on behalf of prohibited donors;
- makes it unlawful for prohibited donors (or others on their behalf) to solicit other persons to make political donations; and
- provides for appropriate transitional arrangements.
- require that after a councillor has informed a meeting of the councillor’s conflict of interest in a matter other than an ordinary business matter, other councillors must vote at the meeting to decide whether the councillor has a real or perceived conflict of interest and whether the councillor must leave the place at which the meeting is being held or may stay and participate in the meeting
- prescribe additional information to be provided by a councillor when informing a meeting of a real or perceived conflict of interest or a material personal interest in a matter other than an ordinary business matter
- require any councillor at a meeting who believes or suspects on reasonable grounds that another councillor at the meeting has a real or perceived conflict of interest or a material personal interest in a matter other than an ordinary business matter to inform the person who is presiding at the meeting of the councillor’s belief of suspicion
- strengthen penalties for councillors who fail to comply with their obligations
- provide that it is an offence for a councillor who has a material personal interest or a real or perceived conflict of interest in a matter other than an ordinary business matter to influence or attempt to influence any vote by another councillor or any decision by a council employee or contractor in relation to the matter.
- changes to the LGA and COBA to introduce an automatic suspension, with remuneration, for any Mayor or Councillor charged with a “disqualifying offence”; and
- changes to the LGA to expand the powers of the Local Government Minister to dismiss or suspend a Council, a Councillor or Mayor in the public interest.
- establishes the Independent Assessor and the Office of the Independent Assessor to investigate and deal with the conduct of councillors where it is alleged or suspected to be inappropriate conduct, misconduct or, when referred to the Independent Assessor by the CCC, corrupt conduct
- provides for local governments to investigate and deal with suspected inappropriate conduct when referred to a local government by the Independent Assessor and to take disciplinary action against councillors for inappropriate conduct
- reallocates the functions of the current Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal (LGRDT) and the Regional Conduct Review Panels (RCRPs) by:
- establishing the Councillor Conduct Tribunal to conduct hearings about a councillor’s alleged misconduct, decide whether the councillor has engaged in misconduct and what, if any, disciplinary action to take, and at the request of a local government investigate the suspected inappropriate conduct of a councillor
- establishing the Local Government Remuneration Commission to establish the categories of local governments, decide the category to which each local government belongs and decide the maximum remuneration payable to councillors
- deals with the conduct of councillors at local government meetings that contravene the behavioural standards (a ‘local government meeting’ is defined to mean a meeting of a local government or a committee of a local government)
- repeals chapter 6, part 2, division 6 of the LGA thereby repealing the declaration that a decision is not subject to appeal, allowing certain review rights for decisions about councillor conduct and judicial review of an administrative decision of a local government
- provides for administration and governance matters including requiring:
- a code of conduct (made by the Minister) to set appropriate standards of behaviour for councillors in performing their functions
- the department’s chief executive to make model procedures for the conduct of meetings of a local government and its committees
- local governments to maintain a councillor conduct register recording particular orders and decisions
- the Independent Assessor to give the Minister an annual written report about the operation of the Office of the Independent Assessor and for the Minister to table a copy of the report in the Legislative Assembly
- strengthens offences to support the new system, including providing protection from reprisal for local government employees and councillors who make complaints against councillors, discouraging frivolous and improper complaints and ensuring confidentiality of investigations
- provides for appropriate arrangements necessary for the transition to the new councillor complaints system.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
Last updated 25 May 2018