Should we repeal the code of conduct for council members.

The code of conduct for council members is not working many believe. Scrap it some say. We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

I agree we do need to remove the opportunity for frivolous or vexatious claims to divert us from more important issues. We also need to strengthen the Code to deal with the more serious offending. My final statement in my last blog was the system needs an overhaul.

There is evidence that members have used the Code to bully their colleagues. There is also evidence of persons outside of Council using the Code to make false and misleading claims.

Investigating claims requires significant resources and funding. Resources that are better put to building our community in the case of such claims.

The Premier recently announced an intention to repeal the code of conduct for council members, possibly because of this.

There is another side to this argument. The actions of a handful of elected members are so grave there remains a need for a system to deal with it.

So, while there is angst concerning the frivolous, the Local Government Association (LGA) is advocating for tougher measures in the Act. In other words, they are advocating for the existing code to be improved and strengthened.

A stronger code of conduct with increased penalties for breaches will provide councils with better tools to address serious – albeit isolated – behavioural issues as they arise. The ability to bring to account those that bring our industry into disrepute. At the same time an opportunity for minor behavioural breaches not to be used to bring us into disrepute.

In this background the Premier has announced he is putting off his plans to repeal it. Presumably he is waiting on talks with the LGA.

We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

The Future of Local Government-Local Government in Crisis

Local Government in Crisis was the topic of a summit I attended recently on behalf of the City of Unley in Melbourne.

 

As testimony that local government (worldwide) is in crisis the leaders of the summit sited the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. To build on this a key note speaker spoke of the crisis being faced by the City of London.

 

Curious examples I would have thought. An outsider being elected to the post known as the leader of the free world. A sovereign country leaving the European Union. The London Council, more like a State Parliament here.

Local Government in Crisis

Truthfully Governments, we all know, are in something of a crisis worldwide as evidenced by the examples given above. Does this drill down to local governments is the question to be answered?

 

Councils over in New South Wales it could be argued are in crisis. Theirs’s however is not one of people being disillusioned with them. It is under the pressure of forced amalgamations being imposed by the State Government. The people there indeed are actually fighting their State Government in support of the current Local Government model.

 

And back here in Adelaide the LGA has conducted a survey which has indicated that local government is the most trusted level of government in this state. A far cry from what I was hearing in Melbourne.

 

Local Government to lead the way, not Local Government in Crisis

 

Backed by these last two observations what I do agree coming out of the Summit is that Local Government “can” lead the way to correcting the disillusionment in Government that the Trump, Brexit factor shows exists. So far from the catch cry being local government being in crisis it should be local government to lead the way in healing public government relations.

 

In other words, I agree with the manifesto that came out of the Summit. A manifesto that rests on a belief that the state of the nation and the health of our society depend on community-driven action in the neighbourhood, not just decisions made in parliaments or boardrooms.

 

Put another way, the crisis facing governments worldwide can only be addressed by a localist approach. And that my friends is the strength of Councils similar in size to the City of Unley.

 

 

Outcomes from 2017 LGA Ordinary General Meeting

Acting on behalf of our Mayor, as your Deputy Mayor, I attended last months LGA Ordinary General Meeting. A number of initiatives were passed for action by the LGA.

Below is a summary from LGA President Lorraine Rosenberg on the outcomes from the LGA Ordinary General Meeting.

It was fantastic to catch up with many of you at our 2017 Council Best Practice Showcase and Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) in Adelaide last month.

Some of the key outcomes that came out of our OGM included member councils asking the LGA to:

  • Request an update from the State Government about the Waste to Resources Fund, and how much of the money in this fund has been reinvested in waste management programs.
  • Consult with councils as to whether to lobby DPTI to review the Australian Road Rules relating to the provision of legal parking of vehicles on nature strips.
  • Propose a partnership with the Electoral Commission to pilot electronic voting in the 2018 Local Government elections.
  • Undertake a public campaign to advocate for the deregulation of liquor licensing to allow for small bars across South Australia.
  • Investigate whether there is sufficient evidence across local government to declare high speed high capacity broadband to be a utility, defined as an essential infrastructure service to achieve the goal of universal coverage.
  • Lobby the State Government to resource the Office of the Coordinator General to coordinate public infrastructure works between the State Government, councils and public utility providers.
  • Explore business models that could be used by the local government sector to manage commercial operations in order to offset the cost of council services for our community.
  • Investigate ways in which access and inclusion is approached by councils, and assist in making this approach consistent across the sector where possible.
  • Advocate to the State Government for the establishment of a Climate Change Adaptation fund that could be accessed by the sector.
  • Work with ALGA, Federal and State Government, and local universities to establish a national centre for local government innovation, research and development in Adelaide.

These motions will help form a key part of our advocacy agenda for the coming year, as we represent councils to both ratepayers and other spheres of government.

Draft minutes from the meeting are available to download from our website.

Councils – the lean machine as promoted by the LGA

Councils – the lean machine: that is the catch phrase for a new publicity program being put out by the Local Government Association (LGA).

In the early days of this blog site I started a similar series albeit, with apologies, not completed. With the recent threat by the opposition to cap Council rates when in Government. With the State Government imposing extra exorbitant taxes through us. With Marion seeking to withdraw from the Association.

Now we see the LGA seeing the need to remind us all what Councils do provide the tax payers of this country.

Below is a media release last week by the LGA titled Councils – the lean machine I trust you will find informative. You may have experienced already the start of this campaign.

2016_LGA_RatesCampaign_AdConcept_F.PDF

The LGA will launch a new campaign  highlighting the diverse range of services

and infrastructure councils provide to their communities, while taking less than 4% of

Australia’s total tax.

2016_LGA_RatesCampaign_AdConcept_F

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar said with households about to receive their rates notices for

2016/17, it was important for ratepayers to know what they are getting for their money.

“Councils in South Australia manage around $22 billion worth of infrastructure, while

providing hundreds of services and facilities in their communities,” Mr Pinnegar said.

“These can include libraries, community centres, immunisation clinics, men’s sheds, footy

ovals, community events, aged care services, swimming pools and much more.

“The days of the three R’s – roads, rates and rubbish – are long gone. The State

Government is giving us more to do, and our communities are telling us they want and

expect more, so councils are stepping in to meet these needs.”

Other council facilities and services can include caravan parks, cemeteries, coastal care,

community buses, development and planning services, bushfire prevention, dog and cat

management, disability services, economic development, place making, environmental

programs, footpath maintenance, tourism information, museums, roads, netball and tennis

courts, playgrounds, recycling facilities, skate parks, street lighting, and storm water drains.

Mr Pinnegar said that goal of the campaign was to communicate that councils provide these

services while taking less than 4% of the nation’s tax.

“80% of all tax paid in Australia goes to the Federal Government, and 16% of it goes to the

states,” Mr Pinnegar said.

“We understand there’s some confusion around the funding received by councils –

especially with more and more State Government taxes being included in council rates.

“The NRM Levy is an obvious example, and is clearly listed on rates notices, but there are

others, such as the rapidly escalating Solid Waste Levy, Rubble Royalties, and Community

Housing rebates, which are all paid by councils and ultimately their ratepayers.

“What people may not realise is that in South Australia, councils receive the lowest funding

per capita of anywhere in Australia, the least amount of grants from their State Government,

and an unfair share of local road funding from the Federal Government.

“We firmly believe local government is a lean machine – and the most efficient sector of

government in Australia – given all we are able to deliver for our communities with less than

4% of national taxation.”

Hoping this helps all understand the role of Councils – the lean machine.