Councillors behaving badly put on notice

The NSW Government has released a draft of an updated Model Code of Conduct for councillors and council staff in the state. It has been released for consultation, with submissions closing on 4 December.

In a press release titled ‘Crackdown on badly behaved councillors’, Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said most councillors do the right thing, but “for a small minority it is all about them instead of what is in the community’s best interests.

“We are determined to weed out councillors misusing their public office. Breaches of the new Code of Conduct by councillors can result in suspension and even disqualification from office. These new proposed requirements will put an even greater onus on councillors to behave appropriately or face the consequences if they don’t serve their ratepayers.”

The vastly updated Code proposes a range of new rules, including:

  • A ban on gifts or benefits worth more than $50
  • Mandatory reporting of all gifts or benefits regardless of value
  • Disclosing records of meetings and other communications with applicants and objectors to planning applications
  • Banning access to council information when councillors have a pecuniary or a significant non-pecuniary conflict of interest.
  • The more regular declaration of interests, including being a property developer or ‘close associate’ of one
  • Publishing information on such interests on council’s website
  • Stronger standards against bullying, discrimination and harassment.
  • Stronger OH&S standards
  • Stronger standards on behaviour at meetings
  • Regulation of the use of social media.
  • Clarifying that councillors must not use council information for personal purposes or undertake personal dealings with council during work time.

The Code will apply to 1,500 councillors and 50,000 council staff across NSW.

The draft Code of Conduct is available here.

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