South Australians will benefit from increased accountability and transparency in the local government sector, with significant reforms passing a major milestone in Parliament today.
Minister for Local Government Vickie Chapman says the reform is the biggest sector shake-up in 20 years, and includes initiatives to combat longstanding issues such as elected member conduct, CEO remuneration and rate setting transparency.
“Poor council member behaviour is an issue that both the Marshall Liberal Government and local councils want to tackle,” Minister Chapman said.
“To address this, we have introduced a new conduct management system, to help councils deal with low-level matters quickly and effectively.
“In addition, an independent Behaviour Standards Panel will be established to ensure complaints about serious or repeated misbehaviour can be investigated quickly and impartially.”
Minister Chapman says the significant reform also includes an expansion of anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual harassment between two council members, as well as new measures to improve financial accountability.
“Ratepayers expect good value for money, and they deserve to know how their money is being spent,” she said.
“Under these reforms, councils will need to seek regular advice from the Essential Services Commission of South Australia on rating decisions, with that advice to be made public.
“In addition, the Remuneration Tribunal of South Australia will be responsible for setting council chief executive salaries, so that ratepayers are confident that these are set independently and fairly,” she said.
Furthermore, the wide-ranging reforms will see the introduction of a ‘community engagement charter’, modernising the way councils engage with their communities.
“The charter will ensure major decisions are subject to appropriate consultation, while giving councils more flexibility in the way they consult,” Minister Chapman said.
“The Marshall Liberal Government is confident this reform will also serve to reduce red-tape across council processes, saving money and time for councils and ratepayers,” she said.
The Bill will need to go back through the Lower House, with the Government and Local Government Association to then determine a timeframe for implementation.