The Western Australian government has proposed what it describes as the most significant changes to the Local Government Act in more than a quarter of a century.
As part of the proposed changes, the role of an inspector of local government will be introduced to investigate complaints, tougher penalties, mandatory recordings of council meetings, and narrower definitions of confidential meetings.
The reforms further propose all matters in the following areas must be held in full public view: town planning and development applications, budgeting, major land transactions, and leases of local government property.
Matters that will remain confidential include CEO appointments, management of behavioural complaints about elected members, and local government cyber security.
WA local government minister John Carey said the changes the government is seeking are the result of reviews into Western Australia’s local government system.
“The public are fed up with dysfunction and repeat bad behaviour by a small number of councillors. Chaotic meetings and petty squabbles are not good enough.
“The reality is, most local governments and councils are doing great work for their communities but these reforms will ensure we have penalties in place that properly address poor behaviour, including suspensions of up to three months for serious misconduct and bans of up to 10 years for elected members who consistently breach the Act,” the minister said.
Carey added the changes will improve accountability and transparency.
The government said it had received more than 200 submissions from the consultation process and plans to introduce the legislation by the end of the year.
The changes come following a scandal reported last month about female councillors reporting poor treatment, including being harassed, as reported by WAtoday.
“People say you should have expected this, it comes with the territory and look at [the treatment of] Scott Morrison and Mark McGowan.
“But local government is different, we don’t have all the protections of state and federal politicians,” mayor of City of Bayswater Filomena Piffaretti said at the time.
It’s not the first time rules have been drawn up around local government, with New South Wales drafting new rules last year as previously reported in The Mandarin. Those required councils to draw up risk management framework in an effort to minimise corruption.