The Queensland state government will recalibrate how local councils deal with complaints about mayors and councillors.
The Palaszczuk government has ordered a review into the way complaints are managed in-house, procedures left unchanged since 2009 when they were introduced.
QLD Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said she had rethought her original decision to disallow a review after getting feedback from local government stakeholders, including the Local Government Managers Association (LGMA) and Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).
Ms Trad had previously declined to conduct a review into local government complaints, calling the current procedure “adequate.”
But she said she changed her mind after LGMA contacted her expressing concern about the potential for conflicts of interest for local council general managers and CEOs when handling and managing complaints.
She was also swayed by LGAQ’s voicing concerns over there being no scope to review or appeal decisions and to “better ensure natural justice is afforded to all parties.”
“These procedures have not been comprehensively reviewed since they were introduced in 2009 and this review is timely to ensure there is a modern, fair, transparent and accountable system in place to manage complaints,” Ms Trad told Parliament.
“The review will examine the statutory provisions relating to complaints to assess the effectiveness of the current legislative and policy framework and make recommendations about policy, legislative and operational changes required to improve the system of dealing with complaints about councillors’ conduct,” she said.
The review will be conducted by an independent panel led by former Integrity Commissioner David Solomon. The panel will also include former Noosa mayor Noel Playford and former Logan City chief executive Gary Kellar with a report expected within six months.
LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said the need for a review of the complaints process was highlighted by “a high level of smear against candidates” during recent local government elections in Queensland.
“We want the process tightened so it can’t be used as a political tool and that is why this review is welcome,’’ Mr Hallam said.
“At the moment, there are some complaints that go to the Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal, some that are dealt with by the councils themselves and still others handled by the local government department. Trying to decide who has the remit can be difficult.”
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