Report calls for new independent Councillor Conduct Commission

A review of poor behaviour in local government has recommended setting up a system of independent councillor conduct review panels overseen by a new statutory office.

Gary Kellar

The proposed Office of the Councillor Conduct Commissioner would be separate from OLG and would remove general managers from the complaints management process.

The recommendations also include harsher penalties for badly behaved councillors, and more powers for mayors and chairs to sanction and kick out disorderly councillors from meetings.

The review was conducted by former Logan City General manager Gary Kellar, who was also involved in an overhaul Queensland’s misconduct framework in 2017.

A number of submissions to the review had raised concerns about a conflict of interest involving general managers as complaint assessors, a lack of competence by reviewers and the length of time taken to review and investigate complaints both by OLG, Mr Kellar said.

Biggest changes in 30 years

Releasing Mr Kellar’s report on Tuesday, local government minister Wendy Tuckerman said Mr Kellar’s 49 recommendations represented the biggest changes to local government integrity measures in more than 30 years.

Ms Tuckerman said it was clear from recent ICAC inquiries that changes were needed to restore trust in local government.

“The people of NSW expect their elected representatives to uphold the highest standards of behaviour and anyone who breaches that trust should face the consequences,” she said. 

Local government peak backs more accountability

Darriea Turley

LGNSW has welcomed recommendations to improve councillor accountability but said it expected state and federal government to be held to the same standards.

“LGNSW is of the view that anyone found guilty of misconduct in politics – whether it be federal, state or local government – should face the consequences,” President Darriea Turley said.

“It is for this reason that we expect state and federal politicians to be bound by a similar framework to the one recommended by this review.”

The most significant recommendation in the review, the establishment of an overarching Councillor Conduct Commission tasked with overseeing a system of panels, would bring the new accountability framework under ‘a single independent and focused authority,’ the report says.

New model of regulation

It would represent a new model of regulation based not only on rooting out and punishing misconduct, but also on “educating and encouraging councillors to perform at their best”.

The proposed commission would provide a “streamlined, impartial and professional complaints management process to minimise the disruption and cost currently being imposed on the sector”.

“The primary indicator will be … reducing the number of complaints about councillor conduct and the general improvement of community trust and confidence in the civic responsibility of elected councillors,” the report says.

Fines and sanctions

The  recommendations also include mandatory councillor training and tougher sanctions including  fines.

Cr Turley said the recommendations would go a long way to fixing shortcomings in dealing with wrongdoing in local government.

“Unfortunately, for too long we have had to contend with a resolution system that is undermined by lengthy delays and a lack of effective sanctions,” Cr Turley said.

“This failed system not only tarnished the reputation of local government in NSW but in some instances overshadowed the great work councils do for their communities.”

Key recommendations include:

  • A new, independent framework for dealing with councillor misconduct
  • The establishment of an independent Councillor Conduct Commission to oversee independent Councillor Conduct Review Panels
  • Mandatory councillor training, including pre-nomination training of candidates for election
  • Tougher penalties and sections to deal with misconduct, including the ability to impose monetary penalties on individuals

Councils have until February 3 to respond to the proposals. A consultation guide to help inform feedback and is available here.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

3 thoughts on “Report calls for new independent Councillor Conduct Commission

  1. There has to be Councillor KPIs for Councillors that should be mandatory.

    All candidates must commit to measurable mandatory responsibilities before standing as a Councillor.

    They must attend all Council and Community committee meetings and workshops if you know you are unable to commit to standing you should not be permitted to stand as a Councillor
    remittance for any Councillor should be pro rata based only on an individual Councillors attendance to all Councillor responsibilities and commitments.

    Got to stop the paid freeloaders who are elected through parties and are there just to make up voting numbers for parties and who do nothing more than turn up to their obligated Council meetings to vote with their party.

    All commitments such as attendance to all Councillor obligations, meetings and workshops should be as mandatory as it is to attend the actual Council meetings.

    Each LGA would have their registered Councillor KPI’s with an independent body who regulates compliance for each elected Councillor.

    1. I think it is a great idea for any person wanting to become a Councillor to attend Council & Committee meetings beforehand to get a better understanding of what is needed and expected.

      We definitely need an independent assessor’s for complaints against councillors. One outside the actual council which can be pressured by political input . We also need stronger support to the OLG & ICAC . Having this new framework and the recommendations will hopefully ensure better behaviour from Councillors who put Power & Politics before the People they are meant to be serving . Hopefully then the community can feel better about local government.

    2. This does not go far enough, there should be an independent tribunal not part of local government to asses complaints against Mayors , councillors, CEO’s that must hear the complaint within 30 days of the allegations that have been made in writing and the person making the allegation to be present when it is heard. The deliberation and penalty if the allegation is found to be made within 10 days.
      That in no way the hearing can be drawn out into the never never like it is here in WA. Standards panel here in WA is totally disgraceful, even when a reasonable complaint allegation can be simply returned as vexatious with any reason as to why

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required