Stronger Council Member capacity and better Conduct is the first reform area in the Government’s Local Government Reform Agenda. This is indeed the area of highest priority.
Accordingly, stronger Council Member capacity and better conduct is the first area I also am giving thought to. As I noted in my blog post of 21 August I intend to convey my thoughts in each of the areas.
I agree with doing this. The Local Government industry agrees with doing this. Apart maybe from a handful of recalcitrant elected members, that is. Members who don’t see themselves as part of the elected body team struggle with this. Those who seemingly must be seen as fighting the establishment.
The media agrees with this and, with their prodding, so do you. Poor behaviour or conduct makes for the Medias view of good press. The press push any notion of poor behaviour on the part of elected members. With this being invariably the sole source of information you have on local government you obviously will likely share the same view.
What you might read in the press however is not the problem that needs to be addressed. It is separating integrity and behavioural issues, and the mechanisms that currently exist to deal with both.
The current rules are a vast improvement on the previous rules. They create confusion however. Members can be compelled by these rules to report perceived code of conduct breaches in fear of being in breach themselves.
The proposal being put forward aims to separate matters of integrity and behavioural matters. This is a must. Matters of integrity must always have robust procedures for handling, including penalties. On the other hand, behavioural matters can and should be dealt with differently.
The Government is proposing 20 recommendations.
Generally speaking I support all of these. Some with a degree of caution.
Please look to my next two blog posts as I look more closely at the difference between matters of integrity and behavioural matters. Look also for my thoughts on increasing the powers of the Mayor and (in a separate blog post) my thoughts on conflict of interest.