With 2019 an election year for Local Governments, potential candidates are being encouraged to review the full requirements of the role as an Elected Member, in particular their obligations around public comment. 

WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said the rules around public comment for Elected Members were clearly set out in the Local Government Act.

These require that Elected Members are not permitted to:
  • Disclose communications that the CEO has marked as confidential
  • Disclose communications that result from a confidential process or meeting
  • Seek to represent the views of the Council as that is the role of the Mayor or President
  • Represent views that are detrimental to the Council and its decisions
Cr Craigie encouraged all individuals considering standing at the next Local Government elections in October to reflect on whether they can adhere to these requirements before nominating. 

She said in recent times there had been some criticism of the public comment parameters for Elected Members – in particular the requirement on detrimental comments.

“Such criticism has claimed that the requirements restrict democracy where the opposite is actually the case,” Cr Craigie said.

“Elected Members have the opportunity during the debate at Council to express their views either in support or in opposition to a position.

“Once that decision is made however, there needs to then be respect for the democratic process and to abide by the majority decision.

“Any individual who wants to ignore a majority decision that they don’t agree with and then continue the debate in public is actually trying to set themselves above the democratic process.”

Cr Craigie said Local Governments that were successful in delivering for their communities had Councils that had the courage to have robust debate on issues but also the integrity to respect the democratic decision.

For more information as to the Local Government Act and the specific requirements on Elected Members, click here.