Local Government reform on agenda at future cities summit

LOCAL government reform and accountability will be on the agenda at today’s LGAQ Future Cities Summit.

REFORM: Local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

REFORM: Local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

Local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Queensland government was pressing ahead with a raft of local government reforms off the back of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra.

“We’ve already political banned donations from property developers and ensured that where a councillor or mayor has been charged with a serious integrity offence, they are automatically suspended,” he said.

“This is part of our rolling local government reform agenda and we’ll work closely with stakeholders, including the LGAQ, to push this agenda forward.

“An important part of our reform agenda is changing the way councillor complaints are handled.

“It is why the state budget includes a commitment of $14.1 million over four years to establish an independent body to consider councillor complaints and improve governance practices and sustainability.

“This office of the independent assessor will be established and operating before the end of the year.

“These and other local government integrity reforms all aim to ensure residents and ratepayers can have confidence in the decisions their councils are making.”

Mr Hinchliffe said the government was also planning for future cities through much-needed planning reform.

“Our planning act commencing last year and a new south-east Queensland regional plan are designed to cater for the expected population growth,” he said.

“As we move move towards a knowledge economy, we are exploring more and more health and knowledge precincts in partnership with local councils. 

“With enhanced accountability and an eye on emerging opportunities, Queensland councils have a great opportunity to shape their future for the better.”

Mr Hinchliffe will be a guest speaker at the conference at the LAGQ conference in Cairns today

Local government reform has been on the agenda all week after Mr Hinchliffe announced a plan to legislate to dismiss nearby Ipswich City Council where more than a dozen people including two mayors, a chief executive and former officers face charges arising from Belcarra.

The legislation, expected to pass a sitting of Queensland parliament in August, is directed solely at Ipswich Council. It would appoint an administrator until 2020 and the next local government elections.

Ipswich Council was asked to show cause why it should not be sacked and the deadline was extended so those involved could further explain the case.

Mr HInchliffe said Ipswich councillors had made it clear no work could be done by the council in its current form.

The announcement however was met with noisy protest who described dismissal for all elected members who had not been charged as unfair.

In Logan, mayor Luke Smith faces charges of perjury and corruption over allegations arising from Belcarra.

Ratepayer and business groups at the time, called for the council to be dismissed and an administrator appointed so it could get on with business of the day.

Mr Smith was suspended while the matters are before the court. He has vowed he will defend the charges.