Office of Local Government reviews code of conduct for councillors, council

Revision: Mayor Peta Pinson says constant revision of the rules surrounding Code of Conduct for councillors and council is welcome.
Revision: Mayor Peta Pinson says constant revision of the rules surrounding Code of Conduct for councillors and council is welcome.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council mayor Peta Pinson says constant revision of the code of conduct and procedures by councillors would assist in keeping the issue ‘top of mind’.

Mrs Pinson was commenting on an Office of Local Government decision to review the code and rules around councillors and councils.

The OLG has sought the views of councils and other stakeholders on the ethical standards prescribed under the Model Code of Conduct, the operation of Procedures and the current regime for disclosure of interests under section 449 of the Act.

Comments on the consultation draft are now being sought.

The OLG says the amendments are designed to update, clarify and enhance prescribed ethical standards, to address issues identified in the four years the current versions of the Model Code of Conduct and Procedures have been in force and to improve their operation.

The new Model Code of Conduct and Procedures will also contain new provisions that are designed to improve ethical standards, more effectively deter non-compliance and lead to improved transparency and accountability.

Mrs Pinson says every councillor is made fully aware of their obligations around good governance and procedure.

“You are made fully aware of your obligations as an elected official. I certainly was and I am aware of what is required of me as the mayor,” she said.

“Our current council includes councillors who are fully across the issue of good governance.

It is a natural part of the process that council will be lobbied and involved.

Peta Pinson

“It is natural that council will be lobbied by a community group or a developer because we are an integral part of planning.

“It may be a community group that wants something brought to the forefront within the community while developers are also doing the same thing. 

“It is a natural part of the process that council will be lobbied and involved.”

Mrs Pinson said councillors use their own moral compass to ensure their personal integrity is maintained.

“It would be a huge risk to an individual to put their reputation on the line by not being appropriate in how they discuss matters revolving around good governance and procedure,” she added.

Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades says the organisation welcomes the reforms.

Cr Rhoades said the vast majority of councillors and council staff work diligently and conscientiously to serve their communities - openly, honestly and in good faith.

“While the code of conduct has adopted many recommendations that the sector itself put forward, some of the proposals – such as a councillor having to declare a cup of coffee or even the offer of one – seem petty and ill-conceived,” he said.

“In the meantime the Government needs to address real financial sustainability issues – such as fixing the rating system, ending cost-shifting and providing a better share of tax revenue to support the local services communities depend on every day.”

For more information go to www.olg.nsw.gov.au

Submissions should be made before Monday December 4, 2017.