Councillors to dob in colleagues

COUNCILLORS have now been charged with the task of dobbing in fellow elected officials who fail to declare interests.

The new Local Government Act now not only means a more detailed register of interests, the rules around the table have also changed significantly.

Southern Downs councillors grappled with the changes at last week’s round of committee meetings, unsure of exactly which matters represented conflicts of interests.

CEO Rod Ferguson told councillors they had a conflict if their personal interests in a relationship or a club were different to the public interest.

He said if anyone felt they had a conflict, they must ask others at the table whether they were allowed to stay in the meeting.

“If they say you should stay but you still feel you don’t want to be there, you still have the right to leave,” Mr Ferguson added.

Councillors expressed concern that, if they stayed in the room and refrained from voting, this would be recorded as a vote against, which could appear misleading to the public.

The biggest change in the legislation is if a councillor knows or suspects a fellow councillor has a personal interest, they must advise the meeting chairperson, putting the onus on councillors.

If the conflict is outside the council chambers, the councillor still has a responsibility to advise the CEO.

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