This is especially true for local governments who have been supporting their communities through the challenges.
To ensure that local governments are equipped to respond to the emergency, since March, the department has progressed a number of legislative amendments.
The first priority was to ensure that local governments could continue to make decisions in the best interests of the community. Amendments were made to the Local Government (Administration) Regulations to enable council meetings to be held online or via telephone during the state of emergency.
Further amendments were progressed to increase the flexibility of the sector to access funding in a timelier manner and to support local government employees to access their long service leave in situation where they were stood down. These amendments also increased the tender threshold to $250,000 so local governments can extend their own purchasing policy and apply local content provisions more readily to goods and services acquired via written quotations.
On 21 April 2020, the Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 received Royal Assent. This Act introduced a new Part into the Local Government Act to specifically deal with the pandemic. It allows local governments to suspend a local law, or parts of a local law, to temporarily remove local restrictions which may be beneficial to the district, or parts of the district, during the state of emergency.
The Response Act also provided a power to enable the Minister to modify or suspend provisions of the Local Government Act 1995 and Regulations while a State of Emergency declaration is in force and where the Minister considers that such an order is necessary to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first Ministerial order was gazetted on 8 May 2020 to deal with issues relating to the requirements to hold public meetings, access to information when council offices are closed and budgetary matters. For detailed information, please refer to the Ministerial Circular.
More information on the legislative changes and guidance on the easing of restrictions.
You can also contact the department directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Budget submissions via Smart Hub
Local governments are reminded that if they need to seek an extension to adopt their budget past 31 August, they can apply to the department via Smart Hub.
Local Government Regulations Amendment (Consequential) Regulations 2020
The Local Government Regulations Amendment (Consequential) Regulations 2020 have recently been released to the sector for comment.
The Regulations will bring into effect all of the remaining parts of the Local Government Legislation Amendment Act 2019, apart from the best practice standards for CEO recruitment, performance review and termination, and the new Code of Conduct which are both being drafted.
The measures included in these Regulations relate to:
- the harmonisation of the appointment of authorised persons across multiple pieces of legislation in the local government portfolio;
- local and statewide public notices; and
- improved access to information, including through publication on the local government’s website.
New subsection 5.88(2A) relating to publication of the financial interest register will not be enacted. To address the concerns of officers regarding the publication of personal information, there will be no requirement for primary or annual returns to be published on the local government’s website. Instead a list of the position of each employee who has lodged a return will be published.
A consultation draft of the regulations and explanatory are available.
Feedback can be provided to email@example.com by Monday 13 July 2020.
Local Government Act Review
The Local Government Act Review Panel has provided its report to the Minister. The Minister is currently considering the report and further advice will be provided in due course.
Candidate Induction and Elected Member Training – reminder
Just a reminder that all candidates are required to complete the online local government candidate induction prior to nominating in a local government election.
The candidate induction is free and is available on the department's website.
In addition, all council members are required to complete the training course, Council Member Essentials, within 12 months of being elected. The course has been developed to provide council members with the skills and knowledge to perform their roles as leaders in their district.
For those council members elected in the 2019 elections, please make sure you are on track to complete the training within the required 12-month timeframe. You can complete the training online or via face-to-face workshops and more information can be found at the department’s website.
All local governments are required to report on the training at the end of the financial year and publish this on their website.
Queries regarding the candidate induction or the Council Member Essentials
training should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
or 61 8 9492 9627.