Compulsory training legislation for local government candidates and councillors will be “critically important” but are concerned it will not make a massive difference to accountability, according to councillors.
Councillors claim that the introduction of the laws on Thursday were “on the money” to ensure responsibilities in local government positions were understood, but the quality of candidates determined the quality of a local government.
The Local Government Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 will require candidates nominating for local government and councillors to take mandatory training.
Local governments believe people nominating for councils needed to understand the rules and procedures of councils.
“It’s critically important that candidates standing for local governments are aware of the complexities, the increasing complexities of local government,” City of Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said.
“It’ll certainly bring to the attention of people candidates who wish to aspire to local government that there is important things to take into consideration.”
Mayor Howlett said the public believed that candidates and councillors should know what is involved in the job.
“People expect candidates to be educated, to be involved and engage with their community,” he said.
In announcing the legislation, Local Government Minister David Templeman said the laws for training were designed to better equip council members to perform their role, while providing greater transparency and accountability to the community.
Candidates will be required to complete an online induction before nominating for local government elections and will also need to complete five modules of training within the first 12 months of being in office.
The legislation also introduced reforms including a code of conduct requirement, CEO and recruitment and performance management standards, a new framework for acceptance of gifts and improved reporting to the community.
“The McGowan government is focused on making sure that our local government sector is strengthened and has the appropriate legislative framework to ensure that good decisions are made at the local government level,” Mr Templeman said.
Training Reforms Essential But “Won’t Make a Massive Difference”
Town of East Fremantle Deputy Mayor Michael McPhail accepted that the legislation was needed, urging people either wanting to become involved or already in local government to undergo training, including young candidates.
Mr McPhail said he did not receive training when he entered local government, but said it was necessary generally.
“They need to be trained, they need to understand what they’re doing,” Mr McPhail said.
“If you’re not willing to undertake a training program to nominate yourself to local government, you don’t deserve to run.”
However, he did not know if it would improve accountability.
“I think the introduction of mandatory training won’t make a massive difference,” Mr McPhail said.
“The biggest difference that comes in the performance of local government is the quality of your local councillors.”
Mayor Howlett said the new laws should not deter young people from becoming councillors.
“I think it will or should encourage young people,” he said.
“We need that diversity on council.”