Proposed reforms tabled in SA Parliament in June to improve and streamline SA councils' services

Photo: File
Photo: File

Major new reforms designed to streamline and improve state councils' services will be put under a microscope to see if they stack up, a government body has assured.

The proposed reforms fall under the Local Government Review (Bill) 2020 which was tabled in SA parliament on June 17.

It comes after the Local Government Association (LGA) had been calling for action on local government reforms for a "number of years".

LGA president Sam Telfer said last week how he will now consult with members to seek whether the Bill "hits the mark".

"It's important that these proposed reforms actually help councils to streamline processes and reduce costs, and don't create unnecessary and costly red tape," Mr Telfer shared in the LGA newsletter.

He said one proposal included in the Bill and "unlikely to be supported by our sector" is the requirement for councils to submit their Annual Business Plans to an external body for review.

"Councils already consult with their communities on Annual Business Plans and budgets, and adding another layer of bureaucracy to this process will cost time and money," he said.

"Given that average council rate increases have been trending down - and are well below increases in state government fees and charges - it's unclear why this additional requirement is necessary."

Furthermore, Mr Telfer stressed that the reform was especially important in light of the sector's current focus on helping SA communities recover - both economically and socially - from the impacts of COVID-19.

"Every dollar councils are forced to spend on complying with additional regulation is a dollar they can't invest in local projects that will create jobs and stimulate economic activity."

Mr Telfer added how each level of government should always be striving to improve.

"...we look forward to working constructively with the Government and Parliament on delivering sensible and effective reforms for our sector."

Some of the key proposed reforms include:

  • A new conduct management framework for council members
  • An expansion of expert, independent advice to councils on a range of critical financial and governance matters
  • Modern approach to public consultation
  • A range of improvements to regulation to reduce councils' costs.

The major reforms contained in the Bill are the result of the Local Government Reform Program held between 2019-2020.