Tougher council conduct penalties welcomed

REFORMS  giving stronger powers for the Local Government Inspectorate to prosecute troublesome councillors have been welcomed by Greater South Coast group chairman Cr Chris O’Connor of Terang.

Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell this week announced reforms which will give the inspectorate power to examine serious misconduct and hand down harsher penalties of  up to $86,616 in fines and/or five years’ jail.

She said they complemented increased authority to be given to mayors for removing unruly councillors from meetings.

Cr O’Connor, the mayor of Corangamite Shire, said anything that improved local government’s standing in the community was important.

“I think the role as councillor is one that requires high standards around behaviour and governance in their role,” he said.

 “Obviously the minister has sought to strengthen penalties if councillors breach the act and I suspect most councillors and ratepayers would support that.

“In my view our councillors at Corangamite work hard for their communities and will be comfortable with the reforms.”

The proposed changes to be introduced before June will give the inspectorate an expanded role of investigation and prosecution including two new offences relating to breaches of  confidentiality and improper direction of council staff.

It is proposed both offences carry penalties of up to $17,323.