Councillors across New South Wales 152 council bodies are now subject to the new Code of Conduct after it came into force late last week.

According to State Minister for Local Government, Don Page, the new Code will allow the Division of Local Government to investigate misconduct by councillors and to take disciplinary action against them if they breach the code.

“Sanctions include suspension of individual councillors for up to three months and in serious cases, suspension for up to six months or disqualification from civic office by the Pecuniary Interest and Disciplinary Tribunal,’’ Mr Page said.

“I want to emphasise that the vast majority of councillors uphold the highest levels of probity that we expect of them.”

Mr Page said the new rules were the result of extensive consultation with the community, the local government sector, the NSW Ombudsman’s office and Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The main new rules are:

  • Councillors who misbehave could have their fees suspended for up to three months or in extreme cases, could be barred from civic office for up to five years.
  • A provision to punish councillors for making politically motivated or vexatious allegations under the code.
  • New regional assessment panels will be formed to assess complaints made under the code of conduct.
  • Creation of a role for the Division of Local Government to help councils administer the code.
  • Make it possible for the Director General of Local Government to consider a councillor’s prior behavior when deciding on sanctions.
  • A ban on councillors and their family members receiving gifts of more than token value including free meals, gym memberships, free or discounted overseas travel. 
  • A ban on councillors using their positions to gain a private benefit, financial or otherwise.
  • A ban on sanctions for councillors who fail to abide by caucus rulings before council votes.

The new model code comes into force just days after Mr Page introduced new early intervention laws into Parliament.

If passed, those new laws will allow the Minister to issue "improvement orders" to poorly performing councils and to suspend councils for up to three months with a possible extension of a further three months to improve or restore the effective functioning of the council.

“The two sets of laws complement each other and form an integrated framework for dealing with dysfunction or poor performance in councils,’’ Mr Page said.

More information can be found here