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Message from the Presiding Member

To the Hon David Templeman MLA, Dip Tchg, BEd
Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts

The following report is the annual report of the Local Government Standards Panel (the Standards Panel) for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.

The Standards Panel composition changed from the previous financial year with Mr Gordon MacMile being appointed as the Deputy to the Presiding Member with effect from 22 June 2020. The terms of appointments for Local Government members Cr Paul Kelly and Ms Rebecca Aubrey expired on 9 April 2020 and Cr Peter Rogers and Cr Deborah Hopper were subsequently appointed.

It is appropriate that I acknowledge former members Cr Paul Kelly and Rebecca Aubrey for their significant contribution to the Standards Panel during their terms as well as my appreciation to the current members for their knowledge and time they devote to the Standards Panel.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Department for their continued hard work and professionalism in providing administrative and executive support to the Standards Panel.

In 2019 a number of amendments were made to the provisions of the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act) relating to the operation of the Standards Panel.

In July 2019 the Act was amended to:

  • reduce the time frame for lodging a complaint from two years to six months;
  • provide for the confidentiality provisions to apply at all times, not just during an election period;
  • allow the Standards Panel to request parties to a complaint to participate in mediation before the complaint is heard or considered to resolve behavioural matters related to the complaint;
  • allow the Standards Panel to order a council member to reimburse the local government for the cost of the panel proceedings for adverse findings; and
  • require the CEO of a local government to publish an up-to-date version of a register of complaints on the local government’s website;

Further amendments to the Act in September 2019 include a requirement for all council members to undertake the training course Council Member Essentials within 12 months of being elected to ensure they have the necessary knowledge to understand and carry out their role. Each local government is required to publish a report on its website at the end of the financial year of training undertaken by council members.

Later this year, further amendments will introduce a mandatory Code of Conduct for council members, committee members and candidates to ensure that standards of behaviour are consistent between local governments and meet community expectations. The relevant regulations to support this amendment are currently being developed.

The reduction in the time period for lodging complaints from two years to six months may have had an impact on the number of complaints lodged with the number of complaints lodged in 2018/19 being 147 compared to 121 in the 2019/20 financial year, however this could also be attributed to the fact that Local Government elections were held in October 2019. It is also not yet evident if the mandatory training requirement has had an impact on the number of complaints being lodged.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated impact on the ability for meetings to be held, the Standards Panel was able to achieve a further reduction in the time taken for complaints to be finalised. In this regard, 13 meetings were held in 2019-20 compared to 22 meetings in 2018-19.

There continues to be a trend of the majority of complaints resulting in no breach being found, either by a finding of no breach being made or by the panel refusing to deal with a complaint. Out of 120 complaints finalised in in 2019/20, 69 findings of no breach were made, and the panel refused to deal with 20 complaints.

The Standards Panel remains committed to its objective of making decisions that promote and enforce high standards of behaviour by elected members in local governments across Western Australia.

The Standards Panel will continue to build on its achievements of 2019-20 and strive to maintain increased efficiency in relation to its operations and the important service it provides to the community and the local government sector.

Michael Connolly
Presiding Member

Local Government Standards Panel

21 August 2020

Page reviewed 26 August 2021