New Governance and Integrity Regulations for Victorian Councils


This article applies to local councils.

Local Government (Governance and Integrity) Regulations 2020 (Vic)

Please be advised that the Local Government (Governance and Integrity) Regulations 2020 (Vic) (the Regulations) commenced on 24 October 2020 and are made under the Local Government Act 2020 (Vic) (the Act). The Regulations address the governance and integrity components of the Act, with relevant amendments relating to councillor induction training, lodging of and public access to personal interest returns, and standards of conduct.

Councillor induction training

Section 32 of the Act requires Councillor’s to complete Councillor induction training within 6 months after the day the Councillor takes the oath or affirmation of office. For the purposes of this provision of the Act, regulation 6 of the Regulations provides that Councillor induction training must be conducted in person or by electronic means, and must address the following matters:

  • the role of a Councillor, a Mayor and a Deputy Mayor, and the role of a Chief Executive Officer;
  • any practices, protocols or policies in relation to the interaction between members of Council staff and Councillors;
  • the overarching governance principles and the supporting principles;
  • the standards of conduct;
  • misconduct, serious misconduct and gross misconduct;
  • the internal arbitration process and the Councillor Conduct Panel process under the Act;
  • engagement and reconciliation with the traditional owners of land in the municipal district of the Council;
  • giving effect to gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness;
  • any other relevant matters relating to governance and integrity as determined by the Chief Executive Officer.

Lodging of and public access to personal interest returns

Section 133 of the Act provides that a specified person must lodge both an initial personal interests return and, if they continue to be a specified person, a biannual personal interests return with the Chief Executive Officer twice yearly. For the purposes of section 133 of the Act, regulations 8 and 9 of the Regulations prescribed that a personal interests return must contain the following:

  • the details of any corporation of which the specified person is a director or a member of the governing body;
  • the details of any unincorporated association in which the specified person is a member and performs a leadership role;
  • the details of any business partnership or joint venture of which the specified person is a member;
  • the details of any trust of which the specified person is a trustee or a beneficiary, including the name and ABN of the trust, the types of assets held by the trust, and the purpose of the trust;
  • the details of any paid employment of the specified person (other than employment with the Council) during the preceding 6 months, if the income from the employment exceeded $10,000 or the threshold amount determined by the Secretary (whichever is greater);
  • the details of any person or body for whom the specified person currently is, or has acted as, a consultant, contractor or agent and whose payments to the specified person exceeded $10,000 or the threshold amount determined by the Secretary (whichever is greater);
  • the details of any land located within the municipal district of the Council or an adjoining municipal district of which the specified person is an owner or holder of a beneficial interest (other than by way of security for any debt);
  • details of any shares that the specified person owns or holds a beneficial interest in, if the value of the shares exceeds 1% of the total share value of the company (or the threshold amount as determined by the Secretary);
  • the details of any company in which the specified person, solely or jointly with any family members, holds a controlling interest (within the meaning of section 72 of the Payroll Tax Act 2007 (Vic));
  • the details of any personal debt exceeding $10,000 or the threshold amount determined by the Secretary owed by the specified person, including the name of the creditor;
  • the details of any other interest which the specified person has decided to disclose on the basis that it may give rise to a general conflict of interest or a material conflict of interest;
  • the details of the specified person submitting the return;
  • a signed statement that the information provided by the specified person is accurate and complete.

In the case of a biannual personal interests return, a specified person must also disclose any gifts of a value greater than $500 (or the threshold amount fixed by the Secretary) received by them, except for gifts received from a family member, gifts disclosed in an election campaign donation return, and any reasonable hospitality received by the specified person at an event or function that the person attended in an official capacity as a Councillor, Chief Executive Officer, member of Council staff or member of a delegated committee.

Under section 135 of the Act, the Chief Executive Officer must prepare a summary of the personal interests information disclosed in the last personal interests return lodged, which is to be made publicly available on the Council’s internet site and for inspection at the Council office. In addition to the requirements already set out in section 135 of the Act, regulation 10 of the Regulations prescribes that a summary of personal interests is to include the following:

  • the name of the specified person;
  • all positions held by the specified person as a Councillor, member of a delegated committee or member of Council staff;
  • the date the specified person lodged the preceding person interests return;
  • a summary of the information disclosed in the specified person’s preceding personal interests return, excluding:
    • the monetary value or amount of any income, shares, beneficial interests other than income or shares, or any debt; or
    • the street address and number of any land owned by the specified person, or in which the specified person has a beneficial interest, if the land is the principal place of residence of any person; or
    • any information the specified person has requested in writing not to be included, but only if the Chief Executive Officer considers that including the information would be reasonably likely to place the personal safety of any person at risk, or unreasonably expose a business, commercial or financial undertaking to disadvantage.

Standards of conduct

Section 139 of the Act provides that a Council must develop a Councillor Code of Conduct which, among other requirements, must include the standards of conduct prescribed by the Regulations. For the purposes of section 139 of the Act, Schedule 1 of the Regulations sets out the standards of conduct and provides that:

  • a Councillor must treat other Councillors, members of Council staff, the municipal community and members of the public with dignity, fairness, objectivity, courtesy and respect, including by ensuring that the Councillor:
    • takes positive action to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation;
    • supports the Council in fulfilling its obligation to achieve and promote gender equality;
    • does not engage in abusive, obscene or threatening behaviour in their dealings with members of the public, Council staff and Councillors;
    • in considering the diversity of interests and needs of the municipal community, treats all persons with respect and has due regard for their opinions, beliefs, rights and responsibilities;
  • a Councillor must do everything reasonably necessary to ensure that the Councillor performs the role of a Councillor effectively and responsibly, including by ensuring that the Councillor:
    • undertakes relevant training or professional development as determined by the Council;
    • diligently uses Council processes to become informed about matters which are subject to Council decisions;
    • is fit to conscientiously perform the role of a Councillor when acting in that capacity or purporting to act in that capacity;
    • represents the interests of the municipal community in performing the role of a Councillor by considering and being responsive to the diversity of interests and needs of the municipal community;
  • a Councillor, to ensure the good governance of the Council, must diligently and properly comply with:
    • any policy, practice or protocol developed and implemented by the Chief Executive Officer for managing interactions between members of Council staff and Councillors;
    • the Council expenses policy;
    • the Governance Rules;
    • any directions of the Minister.
  • a Councillor must not discredit or mislead the Council or the public about any matter related to the performance of their public duties.

 

Please click here to access the full Regulations.


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au