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Message from the Presiding Member

To: The Minister for Local Government

The following report is the annual report of the Local Government Standards Panel (the Standards Panel) for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

The Standards Panel composition changed from the previous financial year. The former Departmental Member, Mr Brad Jolly, ceased to be a member on 1 July 2017 with the restructure of the Department of Local Government and Communities. The former Deputy Departmental Member, Mrs Sheryl Siekierka, was appointed as the Departmental Member in August 2017. Mr Mark Beecroft was appointed as the Deputy to the Departmental Member.

Ms Rachel Yates, Deputy for the Legal Member, submitted her resignation effective from 5 June 2018 due to work and personal commitments. Ms Merranie Strauss, Legal Member, has submitted her resignation with effect 31 July 2018. A new Legal Member and Deputy Legal Member are in the process of being appointed.

The Standards Panel has maintained a focus on reducing the time taken for complaints to be finalised by meeting on a more frequent basis with 14 meetings held during the year and dealing with more matters at each meeting. Attention has also been given to streamlining processes and preventing gaming of the system by providing clear timelines for response to requests from the Standards Panel. It was pleasing to be able to deal with the first complaint lodged in 2018 at the April meeting.

There has been a significant increase in the number of complaints lodged in the first half of 2018, with 50 complaints referred to the Standards Panel. This represents close to a 44 per cent increase in the number of complaints in each of the previous five half-yearly periods. It is not known whether this is due to more concern about the behaviour of council members or an increased confidence in the ability of the Standards Panel to deal with matters in a timely manner.

The Standards Panel applied the amendments that were proclaimed in November 2016 to enable it to refuse to deal with a complaint when it determined that 15 complaints were frivolous, trivial, vexatious, misconceived or without substance.

The Standards Panel’s decisions (relating to matters that result in a finding that a breach has occurred) are published on the Department’s website. Decisions that are the subject of a successful review by the State Administrative Tribunal are not published on the website. The decisions can be found on the Standards Panel web page.

It is appropriate that I acknowledge the contributions of Cr Paul Kelly, Ms Rebecca Aubrey, Ms Merranie Strauss and Ms Rachel Yates during the past year, not only in terms of the time they have devoted to the Standards Panel but in building and refining the body of knowledge and precedent relied upon during the deliberation process. This continues to be an invaluable resource for the local government sector.

The Standards Panel remains committed to its objective of making decisions that promote and enforce high behavioural standards by elected members in local governments across Western Australia.

It is my view that the Standards Panel will continue to build on its achievements of 2017-18 and strive to maintain increased efficiency in relation to its operations and the important service it provides to the community and the local government sector.

I take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Department for their continued hard work and professionalism in providing administration services to the Standards Panel. Without them, the accomplishments of the Standards Panel would not have been possible.

Sheryl Siekierka

Presiding Member
Local Government Standards Panel
August 2018

Page reviewed 25 June 2019