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Message from the Presiding Member

To the Hon John Carey MLA

Minister for Housing; Lands; Homelessness; Local Government

The following is the annual report of the Local Government Standards Panel (the Standards Panel) for the period from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022.

The minor breach system is part of the disciplinary framework for council members in Western Australia under the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act). The minor breach provisions were introduced into the Act in 2007 to address conduct by individual council members, with the aim of responding to disruptive or inappropriate conduct.

The system responds to and deters conduct by council members that disrupts the effective functioning of their local government.

The Standards Panel convened 11 meetings in 2021-22 compared to 25 meetings in 2020-21, with fewer complaints received (down 29 per cent) and changes to processes resulting in the Standards Panel being able to consider more matters at each meeting.

The Standards Panel considered 130 allegations in the 98 complaints finalised in 2021-22, with 64 findings of no breach and 28 findings that a breach had occurred. Seven matters were suspended as the respondent was no longer an elected member and one matter was withdrawn. The panel also refused to deal with 30 complaints.

These numbers reflect that the Standards Panel averaged hearing nine complaints per meeting with a third of their considerations resulting in breaches of the legislation.

Changes made to the pre-meeting process resulted in a significant reduction in turnaround times. Adjustments to the post-meeting process will be made in 2022-23 to further streamline decision timelines, however, it should be noted that some delays are due to the panel providing extensions for respondents to ensure procedural fairness.

The Standards Panel composition changed from the previous financial year with former deputy, Mr Gordon MacMile, replaced by Ms Darrelle Merritt.

I acknowledge the sad passing of the Standards Panel member Councillor Deborah Hopper in December 2021.

Councillor Hopper was a valuable contributor to the panel and a highly regarded member of the community.

I would also like to thank Councillor Peter Rogers for his ongoing commitment for the year. We also welcome Councillor Renee McLennan of the Town of Bassendean, who will join as the new deputy Local Government member for 2022-23.

I would like to thank our legal members, Ms Emma Power and Ms Elanor Rowe for their support and the timeliness in providing what are sometimes quite complex reports and welcome their extension in the roles to ensure consistency across all panel decisions.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for their continued work in providing administrative and executive support to the Standards Panel.

Tim Fraser
Presiding Member, Local Government Standards Panel
31 August 2022
Page reviewed 16 March 2022