The Tasmanian Government and representatives of the local government sector have reached agreement on a forward work program to strengthen local government in Tasmania at the Premier’s Local Government Council (PLGC) meeting this week.
Minister for Local Government, Nic Street said 2022 saw the Government introduce compulsory voting at local government elections for the first time to strengthen connections between communities and their local councils.
“This important reform proved highly successful and resulted in a massive increase in voter participation. We now have a unique opportunity to look for ways to improve election processes in the future,” said Minister Street.
From next week, the Office of Local Government will be launching a period of public consultation and will be opening an online feedback page on its website and inviting community members and stakeholders to provide comment on their experiences with this year’s elections.
“The information we gather from this process will help pave the way for a more formal review in 2023 of the legislative framework for local government elections,” the Minister said.
“We have taken a big step forward for democracy with compulsory voting for local government elections. We now need to continue to build on this and review every aspect of the way that we run elections for local government in Tasmania.
“We will continue to work closely with the Local Government Association of Tasmania to deliver a robust Learning and Development Framework for all elected councillors in Tasmania, as part of a broader set of reforms to improve the overall culture in councils. This new framework will ensure councillors are equipped to fulfil their important role.
“The role of a councillor is highly complex, and we need to make sure that the support is in place to assist them to make decisions in the best interest of their communities.”
Two packages of online learning modules are already available for councillors, and additional modules will be made available over the coming months, said Mr Street.
The PLGC has agreed to establish formal governance around the Framework and to identify sustainable funding models to support it.
“The conduct of councillors has had a significant impact on council culture and it is critical that we have a robust and responsive framework for addressing councillor misconduct when it occurs,” the Minister said.
“This year we have introduced the Local Government Amendment (Code of Conduct) Bill 2022 to strengthen and modernise the sector’s Code of Conduct Framework and a key additional focus in early 2023 will be the exploration of better mechanisms for dealing with the most serious cases of councillor misconduct.
“I intend to consult with the community on this important issue with the release of a discussion paper in January which will outline and explore possible additional sanctions, including dismissal, for serious misconduct.”
He said the Office of Local Government will also be working with the Local Government Association of Tasmania and the sector in 2023 to develop a contemporary framework for managing conflicts of interests for local government elected officials and ensuring clarity and transparency around processes and expectations.
“While all of this important work progresses, Stage 2 of the Future of Local Government Review is well underway and the independent Local Government Board is currently exploring reform options to support a more robust and capable system of local government that is ready for the future,” the Minister said
The Board will be releasing an Options Paper for public consultation on December 14.
Further information and advice on how to provide comments will be available here from Wednesday, 7 December.