Local Government – Protectors of Community Rights Or Are They?

Photograph Sydney Morning Herald.

With the push from the NSW Government for Councils to Amalgamate who will be the winners? Local government representatives are elected by the community to provide the people with services, and protect their rights. Dealing with local government over a large number of years brings many stories, some of them positive, some negative. It all comes down to the individual, their motives for standing for office, who influences them, what political party they belong to, their ethics and morals.

For the most part our dealings in your local area can be positive, however overtime this can become a liability for the community. In a perfect world, our heritage would be protected, our services would be looked after, our needs met. Then other forces and lobbyists with money can infiltrate your area. Some of this has come to the forefront during the recent ICAC hearings where money and influence has been commonplace, leaving the community with out a voice.

Will large councils make an impact on the community with better services and protection. The amount of people elected to council will be fewer. We assume that the Council will be made up of 2 people from each of the previous councils. That should break any control of the local area due to sheer numbers in the makeup of existing Councils. At the moment Councils are regulated by a Model Code of conduct expected of them as our elected representatives. Although people with controlled interests usually have people living in other parts of the city. This can lead to a corruption of process. There needs to be checks and balances to ensure that corrupt practices and conflict of interests cannot infiltrate the process.

See below some of the current expectations.

The sector is also actively involved in issues affecting community wellbeing, such as environmental sustainability, economic development, planning and social matters. As democratically elected representatives, councillors are advocates for the community, and protect their interests. They also communicate their needs and concerns to other spheres of government, industry and the media.

Councillors are elected for their strong leadership skills, integrity and commitment to serving their community. Being a councillor is an extremely challenging and satisfying experience and provides a unique opportunity to not only interact with the community, but also to influence the vision and strategic direction of council areas.

The Councillor Guide is a valuable tool for anyone interested in the roles and responsibilities of a councillor, as well as the structure of Local Government. We welcome your feedback on the guide and trust that you will find it useful and informative. http://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/Model-Code-of-Conduct.pdf

GENERAL CONDUCT OBLIGATIONS, the following is a small sample of what Councillors are expected to do.

3.1 Must not conduct yourself in carrying out your functions in a manner that is likely to bring the council or holders of civic office into disrepute. Specifically, you must not act in a way that:

a) contravenes the Act, associated regulations, council’s relevant administrative requirements and policies

b) is detrimental to the pursuit of the charter of a council

c) is improper or unethical

d) is an abuse of power or otherwise amounts to misconduct

e) causes, comprises or involves intimidation, harassment or verbal abuse

f) causes, comprises or involves discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to employment

g) causes, comprises or involves prejudice in the provision of a service to the community. (Schedule 6A)

3.2 Must act lawfully, honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence in carrying out your functions under the Act or any other Act. (section 439)

3.3 You must treat others with respect at all times.

Fairness and equity

3.4 You must consider issues consistently, promptly and fairly. You must deal with matters in accordance with established procedures, in a non-discriminatory manner.

3.5 You must take all relevant facts known to you, or that you should be reasonably aware of, into consideration and have regard to the particular merits of each case. You must not take irrelevant matters or circumstances into consideration when making decisions.

Harassment and discrimination

3.6 You must not harass, discriminate against, or support others who harass and discriminate against colleagues or members of the public. This includes, but is not limited to harassment and discrimination on the grounds of sex, pregnancy, age, race, responsibilities as a carer, marital status, disability, homosexuality, transgender grounds or if a person has an infectious disease.

Development decisions

3.7 You must ensure that development decisions are properly made and that parties involved in the development process are dealt with fairly. You must avoid any occasion for suspicion of improper conduct in the development assessment process.

3.8 In determining development applications, you must ensure that no action,

statement or communication between yourself and applicants or objectors

The Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW – March 2013

Complaints alleging a breach of this part

8.14 Complaints alleging a breach of this Part (Part 8) by a councillor, the general manager or an administrator are to be made to the Division of Local Government.

8.15 Complaints alleging a breach of this Part by other council officials are to be made to the general manager.

June M Bullivant OAM

Crown Land Our Land.






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