Public hearings set to begin into troubled NSW council

Public hearings into Wingecarribee Shire Council will begin next month.

The then local government minister Shelley Hancock announced last September that a public inquiry would be held into serious financial, legal, cultural, structural, reputational and governance issues plaguing the currently NSW Southern Highlands council, which remains in the hands of an administrator.

Commissioner Ross Glover

Ms Hancock suspended council in March 2021 citing a worsening breakdown of relationships between councillors and senior staff.

In a statement last week Wingecarribee said the public inquiry would commence on March 28.

A spokesman told Government News the situation would be reassessed closer to the date because of Covid but at this stage only people directly involved with the inquiry including witnesses, suspended councillors and current and former staff would be able to attend the hearings in person, although proceedings will be live streamed.

The inquiry follows a recommendation by Council’s interim administrator Viv May, and was necessary to restore community confidence, the then minister said last year.

The inquiry will investigate:

  • Whether members of Council’s governing body fully understand their roles and carried them out properly
  • Whether councilllors improperly interfered in operational matters
  • Whether Council’s governing body is in a position to direct and control the affairs of Council  in accordance with the Local Government Act

Barrister Ross Glover, who was Counsel Assisting during the Blue Mountains City Council inquiry, will lead the inquiry and prepare a report for the government.

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