NEW laws giving the state government the power to suspend or sack an individual councillor have been introduced to parliament.
Currently the local government minister can only suspend an entire council.
Discussions about the law started shortly after the McGowan government’s election and Perth lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi’s appearance at the State Administrative Tribunal over undeclared gifts and travel.
Local government minister David Templeman says; “this is an important and overdue reform that will increase the state’s powers for the benefit of the community”.
Reece Harley, who’s now sidelined following the McGowan government’s decision to sack the council, says the bill is “29 months too late”.
Mr Harley had called for Ms Scaffidi to resign in the wake of investigations which found she’d breached the local government act on multiple occasions, but the lord mayor refused to walk, taking the matter to the WA Court of Appeal in a bid to hold on to power.
The bill would let the minister suspend a councillor if any of the following conditions are triggered:
• They are charged with an offence that would disqualify them from being a council member if found guilty;
• The local government department CEO has referred an allegation of serious or recurrent breach of the act to the SAT (which would apply to Ms Scaffidi);
• The council member is failing or has failed to perform their role, functions or duties as defined in the LG Act;
• The council member’s conduct is adversely affecting or has adversely affected the ability of another person (including the local government) to perform their role, functions or duties; or,
• The council member’s conduct is adversely affecting or has adversely affected the ability of the local government to comply with the employment principles in the LG Act.
Currently the minister can sack an entire council if an inquiry panel investigates and recommends dismissal.
Most Perth councillors were fuming over the suspension, when they perceived the lord mayor to be at the root of the problem.
Ms Scaffidi released a statement following the full council’s suspension saying: “On the one hand, speaking as the lord mayor, I am extremely disappointed. The minister’s decision in effect means that the council, of which I am the head, has lost the confidence of the government.
“It means that those who the ratepayers have elected to represent them will, at least for a period, not be able to do so.
“Today’s decision therefore means that, as the head of the City of Perth, I have failed in my responsibility to deliver to the ratepayers effective local government. For that I apologise to all ratepayers.
“Also, to the extent that the ‘serious breaches’ of the Local Government Act have impacted on the government’s decision, again I apologise to all ratepayers.”
by DAVID BELL