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Practicing good governance as a council

The following checklist[1]will give you a basic understanding of whether your council has the culture and processes to support good governance.

Maintaining high ethical standards

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Elected members display integrity and impartiality in their decision making






The council acts in the best interests of the community.






Elected members lead by example.






The council actively promotes transparency and accountability.




Elected members respect the council’s code of conduct.




The council reviews the code of conduct within three months of an election (as required by the Local Government Act 1993).




Understanding your role and the role of others

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Elected members understand their role, and the roles of the Mayor and the General Manager.






Elected members come to meetings well prepared and participate effectively in debate and discussions.






The council is not drawn into operational management matters.






The council is effective in monitoring and evaluating the performance of the General Manager.




Building good relationships

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The council communicates effectively with its community.






The Mayor liaises effectively with the General Manager.






The relationship between the Mayor and elected members is effective in enabling the council to fulfil its duties and responsibilities.






The relationship between the council and the General Manager is effective in enabling the council to fulfil its duties and responsibilities.




Elected members are respectful towards one another, members of the community and the council administration.




The council has a protocol in place to guide engagement between elected members and the administration.




Effective strategic planning and monitoring performance

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The council has been effective in setting the overall direction of the council area.






The council is effective in considering and determining all major policy issues.






The council monitors appropriate financial and non-financial performance indicators.




The council regularly inputs into strategy development and review.




Council meetings address the key issues facing the community.




Robust risk management

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The council has a risk management policy.






The council has a clear understanding of business risk.






The council balances risk and opportunity as part of the policy development and decision making processes.






The council identifies, analyses, evaluates, treats, monitors and communicates risks in a way that will maximise the potential to achieve goals and objectives, and minimise the potential for harm or loss.




Fair and transparent decision making

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

There are clear expectations around setting the meeting agenda, circulating papers, and decision making protocols.






The council gives due consideration to advice provided by the administration.




Elected members are committed to the principle of natural justice.




Elected members make decisions that are in the best interest of the community.




The council engages in robust debate at council meetings.




Elected members manage their conflicts of interest.




The council uses closed meetings appropriately.




The council has a community engagement policy.




Legislative compliance

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Elected members are aware of their responsibilities under the Local Government Act 1993 and other relevant Acts of Parliament.






The council monitors compliance with legislative requirements.




The council has a register of delegations.




Continuous improvement

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The council consciously manages its performance and pursues continuous improvement.






The council has an elected member training and development policy.






Elected members’ training and development activities are reported in the annual report.






The council’s audit committee plays a key role in ensuring that the council’s activities meet requirements.




Good governance and land-use planning

Strongly Agree

Agree

Not Sure

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Elected members understand the different roles they play as community representatives and members of a planning authority.






Elected members understand the role of the council as a planning authority.




Elected members effectively manage conflicts of interest associated with planning decisions.




The council aligns its land-use planning with the strategic plan.





This checklist is just a starting point. There are a number of ways that you and your elected member colleagues can assess your council’s governance performance to develop a more detailed understanding:

  • Internal review – An internal review might involve reports (prepared by the council administration) that assess council performance across the range of governance components and are considered by elected members at a workshop or meeting. This would be a useful step in starting to develop a picture of the effectiveness of your council’s governance culture and processes.
  • Governance audit by an external consultant – Your council may wish to engage the services of an external consultant to provide an objective perspective on governance arrangements.
  • Benchmarking/best practice partnerships – Your council may be interested in working in partnership with a similar council to compare practices and identify opportunities to improve processes.
  • Community surveys – Your council may consider developing a community survey to understand what the community thinks of its council’s governance.
  • Feedback – Your council may be able to identify shortcomings in governance practices through feedback received from residents who lodge complaints, negative press, or findings from audit committees.

Assessing your council’s governance processes can help to build an understanding of where there may be opportunities to improve. Improving governance within councils is a simple continuous improvement process. Councils should take time to assess their governance performance, identify opportunities to improve, develop a strategy to implement improvements, implement the strategy and reassess governance performance.

Refer to section 5 for a suite of resources that may be useful to your council as you enhance your governance performance.