A number of councils are currently reviewing their Councillor Codes of Conduct on the understanding that the Local Government Amendment (Improved Governance) Act 2015 (Act) requires it.
It is true that councils must undertake a review of their Councillor Codes of Conduct within four months of s 15 of the Act commencing operation. However, s 15 is not yet in force and so the four-month clock has not started ticking.
While some parts of the Act commenced in November 2015, the majority of the Act is still awaiting proclamation. The provisions currently in force mainly relate to the duty to adopt an election period policy and the role and functions of Councillors, the Mayor and the Chief Executive Officer.
The remainder of the Act, including review of the Councillor Code of Conduct and changes to Councillor Conduct Panel processes, will commence on 1 September 2016, unless proclaimed earlier. It is important that councils do not rely on provisions of the Act until they are in force.
Although there is no harm in preparing an updated Councillor Code of Conduct to reflect the changes to be introduced by the Act, we recommend that councils do not adopt a revised Code of Conduct at this stage, for the following reasons:
- the parts of a revised Code of Conduct which reflect provisions of the Act not yet in force should not be relied upon, and cannot be enforced, until the relevant provisions commence operation
- the revised Councillor Code of Conduct is likely to be at odds with the current provisions of the Local Government Act 1989
- even if your council reviews and adopts a new Councillor Code of Conduct now, it will still be required to undertake a further review when s 15 of the Act commences.