The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, the integrity agency for local government in Victoria, has completed a review into Victorian councils compliance with Code of Conduct provisions in the amended Local Government Act 1989.
Since the report was released to the Minister for Local Government on Monday 15 August 2016, the Victorian Government introduced legislative amendments in Parliament to allow councils and councillors more time to complete the code of conduct acceptance process.
The Local Government Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament on 17 August repeals section 76C(1), removing the requirement for councils to amend their codes during the current council term.
This amendment follows errors made by councils that would have seen 107 councillors – including 13 entire councils – disqualified and then dismissed on 1 September for not agreeing to abide by their own code of conduct.
Councillors will still be required to review their code of conduct within four weeks of the October 22 council elections and agree to abide by it.
The Inspectorate has proactively worked with councils on compliance issues since its formation in 2009 and will continue to do so through the 2016 local government election process to ensure fair and transparent elections.
Under the Local Government Amendment (Improved Governance) Act 2015, councils are required to review and amend their codes of conduct within four months of the relevant provisions coming into effect, which was on 1 March 2016.
Councils were required to have adopted their Codes of Conduct by 4 July 2016.
Councillors have 30 days from the date their council adopts the amended code of conduct to make a written declaration to the Council’s Chief Executive Officer that they will abide by that code.
Councillors who do not make a declaration are disqualified from 1 September 2016 which is the date when new provisions under section 29(1)(ea) of the Local Government Act 1989 relating to the disqualification of councillors come into operation.
The reforms contained in this legislation had the broad aims of strengthening governance and leadership within the sector by providing councils with the capacity to manage and resolve poor conduct by individual Councillors. The changes gave councils a clear role through establishing and creating a compliance mechanism to ensure adherence to their own code of conduct.