From the Newsroom

Shortened terms for new councillors

Geoff Helisma

 

Councillors elected at the December 4 local government election will effectively serve their community for two years and seven months, instead of the usual four-year term.

When the NSW Government announced it was delaying local government elections for the second time, due to the pandemic, it stipulated that the “postponement … will not affect the timing of future council elections, and the subsequent ordinary local government elections will still proceed in September 2024”.

Meanwhile, at last week’s July 27 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, a mayoral minute advocated “expressing disappointment” about the government’s failure to “provide … formal notification” of the postponement.

However, eight of nine councillors voted against three of mayor Jim Simmons’ five points – the first to go, due to an amendment put by Cr Andrew Baker, was “informing” Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock “that the elected members of Clarence Valley Council have given an undertaking to fulfil their elected duties until 4 December 2021”.

Cr Baker said there was no need for councillors to provide said undertaking, because “councillors have sworn or affirmed to carry out their duties while ever they are an elected member”.

“I believe it’s a given that councillors don’t have a choice … unless they resign; then they can do [whatever],” he said.

Cr Jason Kingsley said that the original “four-year term was extended once by the minister without consultation”.

“I am giving an undertaking to be here until December 4, but should the government not get its act together, I won’t be here for any longer,” he said.

Each of other two points deleted were “expressions of disappointment”, regarding the lack of formal notification.

More specifically, the first point “expressed disappointment” that CVC was not “provided with advanced notice in early July that the three-month option to extend the current term may be exercised, should the current outbreak not be under control”.

Cr Peter Ellem said it would be “rude to send this to the minister, given all they’ve had to deal with in Sydney”.

“To me, with respect to mayor and whoever the architect [of the mayoral minute is], it looks like a whinge … a bit of sooking,” he said.

Cr Kingsley said, “If it’s not a thought bubble, [the government] should have extended respect to all members of the 125 councils; to be notified by media outlets is poor.”

He said that the election results (announced on December 21) coincide with the holiday season.

“I hope the minister understands the consequence of what’s going on, [placing] undue pressure on staff over what should be a holiday time after long and challenging year,” he said.

Cr Toms said she was “personally disappointed” that the election was postponed, however, she didn’t support “attacking the minister for local government”.

Mayor Jim Simmons said he supported removing the two points expressing disappointment, effectively voting against his original mayoral minute.

“I’d like to point out that the minister announced [the first] extension of the term 12 months ago and I argue they had plenty of time to come up with other measures, without leaving it till the last minute,” he said.

Councillors Kingsley, Novak and Lysaught voted against removing the “expressions of disappointment”, however, only Cr Kingsley voted against the ultimate decision, to write to the Minister for Local Government, “requesting any costs associated with the delay, including facilities for returning officers, to be borne by the state government” and “requesting consideration” to extend the usual statutory time to elect a mayor, from three to five weeks, “with deliberation given to the availability of resources and limited ability for newly elected councillors to meet early in the New Year”.

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