FNQROC December 2012 Update

LGMA - Governance Village - Local Government Legislation Update

The "Strong Mayor" model of local government, in place at Brisbane City Council since 1982, will be rolled out across all Queensland Councils following the passing of the LGMA Bill on 13 November 2012.

That is perhaps the core change included in the amendments to the Local Government Act contained in that legislation, due for consideration by the Governor in Council in December 2012.

While of course all amendments carry equal weight, the implications of some are broader than others and those empowering the "Strong Mayor" model will inevitably have wide-ranging impacts.

Another change - the restoration of the body corporate - will be proclaimed at a later date, once the exemption of local government employees is finalised under the Federal Fair Work legislation.

You have no doubt all read the Act changes by now and the draft regulations are due out soon.  This is where we will discover the detail of how our practices will change.

Interestingly, the aim was to reduce the regulation pages by 20 per cent and the State Government achieved 40 per cent, in one consolidated version of the draft regulation.

I can't say with certainty what will be in the draft regulations, or indeed the final regulations, but the following generalisations were given as examples of some of the possibilities:

  • Return of the previous wording for special rates and charges to cover legal loopholes;
  • Budget adoption must be by 1 August each year;
  • Reduction in reporting financial sustainability ratios from 6 to 3;
  • Raise in value of large procurement to $200,000 (from $150,000) and the same for advising contracts on the website;
  • Broadening section 185 so there is no need to go to public process if re-leasing to the same lessee, or low risk leases such as at aerodromes, telecommunication towers etc;
  • Suggestion the remuneration tribunal might only meet every four years and have an annual indexing provision for Councillors' remuneration;
  • Removal of the requirement to destroy staff disciplinary records after two years

Among the changes we now face - some of which raise their own questions - are the following:

  • What is a Senior Executive Employee (SEE)? So far the indication is that it is a person reporting direct to the CEO and considered to be in a senior executive position.
  • The Mayor, CEO and Deputy Mayor/Chairperson of a relevant committee can appoint a SEE (including temporary but not acting), but CEO must take disciplinary action when required.
  • The Mayor may now give direction to a SEE and Councillors may ask staff for information to assist in carrying out their responsibilities under the Act.
  • Existing Beneficial Enterprises can stay as they are; however new setups will be under the Statutory Bodies Financial Administration legislation.
  • Corporate entities will now need to be initiated under the Corporations Act.
  • Delegations now require annual review.
  • De-amalgamation - power to develop a regulation.
  • All references to Community Plan are gone from the legislation.
  • The Mayor to prepare and present budget to Council at least two weeks prior to adoption.
  • Use of information by Councillors - prohibition of using inside information for sale or purchase of an asset - 1,000 penalty units or two years imprisonment.
  • Ordinary Business is fully defined in the legislation - minor changes.
  • COI and MPI now does not include interests common to electors or ratepayers and there has been a removal of the requirement to report other Councillors COI and MPI if aware.
  • Complaints now require some preliminary investigation and may require decision making by the CEO for referral or refusal.

Your governance team and others will be pleased to know some of the following may need to be done - when we know what the regulations state:

  • Review all delegations.
  • Review Policies - staff/Councillor interactions, Councillor request for information, standing orders, general complaints process, code of conduct (staff and Councillors - if relevant), procurement, community consultation etc.
  • Change process for Local Laws and consider if a "party house" local law is required in the Local Government area.
  • Corporate and Operational Plan (with removal of Community Plan) and linkages.
  • Annual reporting and quarterly operational reporting processes.
  • Training and Awareness - staff, Councillors etc.
  • Risk register review.

The question for us all is how we effectively manage the business of Council with the changes to the legislation?

How will we prioritise actions needed?

And of course, what can we do to help each other so we are not all creating the same documents?