The Local Government Legislation Amendment Act 2019 has received Royal Assent with some of the amendments taking effect immediately. As such, all local governments need to take action now to ensure they continue to comply with the requirements of the
Local Government Act 1995.
Access to information held by a local government
Information that is currently required to be available at the local government office during business hours must now be available on the local government’s official website. The rate record, register of owners and occupiers, and electoral roll are
not to be published on the website.
Some new information will also need to be made available for inspection and on the local government’s website. Departmental Circular no 03-2019 provides full details of this.
Local governments will no longer be required to make available the CEO’s employment contract or that of senior employees. Regulations will require that the CEO’s (and senior employees’) total remuneration package be published. Advice
will be provided when these regulations are in place.
The CEO of a local government will no longer be able to, after a meeting, deem that documents should not be made available because in the CEO’s opinion the meeting should have been closed to the public.
To encourage local governments to live stream meetings, statutory protection has been provided for the local government from defamation for publishing council proceedings on its website. This protection does not extend to the people making the comments
such as council members, officers and members of the public.
Amendments to public notices
A new scheme of public notices providing greater choice and flexibility to local governments will come into effect when regulations are gazetted.
Some changes take effect immediately. Local, rather than Statewide notice, will be required for advertising local laws. When a local law is gazetted, the gazettal notice must advise that the local law is available on the local government’s official
website and that copies of the local law may be inspected at or obtained from the local government’s office.
Business plans for proposed major trading undertakings and major land transactions must be published on the local government’s official website when public notice is given of the intent to undertake these activities.
Public notice will no longer be required to be given for the policy on making additional payments to employees on termination (prepared under section 5.50 and adopted by the council). The policy must, however, be published on the local government’s
official website. If payments are made outside of the policy, local public notice must still be given.
In relation to rates, the local government must publish on its official website the document describing the objects of, and reasons for, each proposed rate and minimum payment. The local public notice required to be given under section 6.36 in relation
to the imposition of differential rates or minimum payments must advise electors and ratepayers that the above document is available on the website.
Notices under Schedule 6.3 in relation to the sale or transfer of land for unpaid rates or service charges are required to be published on the local government’s official website for at least 35 days.
Furthermore, the notice requirements within
the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1960 (1960 Act) have been simplified and aligned with the requirements of the Local Government Act.
Amendments to the minor breach system (Local Government Standards Panel)
To improve the transparency, accountability and overall outcomes of the minor breach system, amendments have been made.
- The Panel is provided with the power to request the parties to a complaint undertake mediation prior to dealing with the complaint.
- The respondent’s willingness to participate and the outcome of the mediation will be considered by the Panel when determining how the breach, if a breach is found, is dealt with. This will provide a further option for the Panel when the complaint
deals with behavioural matters.
- A power is also provided to the Panel to order a council member found to have committed a breach to reimburse the local government for the costs of the Panel proceedings (rather than this being borne by the ratepayers).
- Rather than dismissing a complaint after a breach has been found, the Panel has the power to order that no sanction be imposed.
- There is a reduction in the timeframe for complaints to be lodged from two years to six months.
- All adverse findings of the Standards Panel and the State Administrative Tribunal relating to elected members of that council must be published on the local government’s official website.
- Censure orders will also now need to be published on the local government’s website.
- The register of found minor breaches that must be kept under section 5.121 will also be required to be published on the website.
Confidentiality of complaints
Historically, section 5.123 of the Local Government Act provided that it was an offence to disclose any information concerning a complaint of a breach of the Act (minor breach, serious breach or a recurrent breach) pending the outcome of the matter if
the complaint was made during a campaign period for a local government election.
This prohibition on the disclosure of any information concerning a complaint has been expanded to include all complaints, regardless of when the complaint is made until the matter is finally determined and a breach has been found to have occurred and
the panel has delivered a sanction decision in respect of the complaint.
Breaching confidentiality can result in a fine up to $5000.
A number of amendments will increase efficiency. Special majority decisions have been removed from the Act.
Section 5.38 has been reworded to clarify that the local government is to review the performance of the CEO, and that the CEO must ensure that the performance of every other employee who is employed for longer than a year is reviewed annually.
Rates notices may be given by email if the owner or occupier of the property has consented to this.
Introduction of Universal Training
The candidate induction and elected member training requirements will come into effect on gazettal of regulations. This will occur in July, ensuring that universal training is in place for the upcoming ordinary elections. All candidates must complete
the induction prior to their nomination.
The induction module will be available on the department’s website shortly and all local governments will be advised when it is available.
Attachment A provides a brief description of each of the amendments to the Local Government Act 1995 that come into effect on assent; Attachment B provides the same details for the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1960.
For further information, please contact the Strategic Initiatives team via email at email@example.com.
Duncan Ord OAM
8 July 2019