Yesterday (5 August 2020) heralded the release of the final report of the Local Government Review Panel. The end-goal of this report is to facilitate and guide the development of a new Local Government Act in Western Australia.
A proposed new Act would replace the Local Government Act 1995 (WA), which has now become outdated in the wake of rapidly evolving technologies and changing community needs and expectations of local government. The Chair of the Panel, David Michael, has stated that:
“The recommendations in this review are a road-map to more agile and inclusive local governments, with a clear purpose to deliver for the enhanced wellbeing of their communities. A new legislative framework that ensures community consultation and integrated planning is a centrepiece of a local government’s operations, as well as an emphasis on regional and intergovernmental collaboration.”
The Government’s plan is to implement sweeping reforms to the local government provisions – replacing and building upon an Act which currently runs to more than 700 pages (including Regulations to the Act). The Local Government Review Panel has further recommended in their report that any new Act must underpin a program of systemic reform to ensure that local government can truly meet the needs of communities. This new Act must be ‘truly renewed’ – looking and feeling different, telling the story of change and outlining a fresh agenda.
So what kind of recommendations are proposed to meet these lofty goals and what can we come to expect?
A very general overview of some of the recommendations (with further specifics found in the final report) that have been proposed are:
- Shortening the main text considerably (aiming for at least a 50% reduction) by consigning regulatory details to schedules or a separate ‘operations’ Act;
- Incorporating new measures to expand self-regulation as part of a flexible regulatory regime that can respond quickly to unexpected circumstances;
- Establishment of a Local Government Commission to promote and facilitate capacity building and continuous improvement across the sector;
- Expanded regional co-operation – including streamlined arrangements for the establishment of joint subsidiaries and a new form of ‘regional authority’ that can bring together local governments, state/federal agencies, and key stakeholders to address specific issues;
- Specific provisions for engagement with Aboriginal peoples and communities – including new consultative mechanisms and an obligation to plan for, and where appropriate undertake, delivery of essential services to local communities;
- Modernised financial management;
- Increased focus on accountability, integrity and self-regulation – including the establishment of independent Audit, Risk and Improvement Committees, and a new Office of the Independent Assessor to deal with conduct complaints; and
- Enhanced Integrated Planning and Reporting.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
For further reading on the detailed recommendations and the background to why these extensive changes have been proposed, you can find a copy of the final report on the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries website and a copy of the Government’s media announcement on the WA Government website.
How can HHG Legal Group assist?
For over 100 years HHG Legal Group has been proudly serving Western Australian families, businesses, governments and individuals.
Our Local Government team will continue to monitor this situation and to provide updates as they come to hand, however should you require any advice relating to the potential effects of the proposed recommendations, please do not hesitate to contact us via our online form or call us on (08) 9322 1966. We have experienced lawyers ready to assist at all four HHG Legal Group locations – Perth, Mandurah, Albany and Joondalup.