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Griffith City Council Mayor John Dal Broi has welcomed strict new code of conduct laws being introduced for local councillors and staff.

The reforms include a crackdown on gifts and benefits and require formal training for councillors and Mayors.

Cr Dal Broi said, while the majority of NSW Councillors and staff work extremely hard and responsibly to serve their communities, these changes would help reinforce appropriate behaviours.

“Griffith City Council has an existing Gifts and Benefits Policy in place which already requires all gifts to be declared and places a $50 limit on the value of gifts that can be accepted. The new code just formalises that policy and brings it into regulation. For our councillors it’s business as usual,” Cr Dal Broi said.

“I’m very happy to see the provisions guiding the use of social media included in the Code because it’s extremely pertinent in this day and age.

“It’s obvious to me from my dealings with other councils that most of the councillors and staff across NSW do the right thing, but unfortunately this document is required to enforce the behavior of all council officials.

“This new code of conduct tightens up pecuniary interest, which is a result of what has happened at other councils. It also reaffirms guidelines for the actions of councillors and staff.”

Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said the reforms are needed to ensure the conduct of local councillors meets the expectations of the community.

“The new Model Code of Conduct stamps out the bad behaviour we have seen among a small number of councillors who have acted in self-interest rather than in the best interests of the community,” Ms Upton said.

“For example the acceptance of lavish gifts is now a thing of the past – there is now a $50 limit.

“There are also restrictions on access to council information, strict requirements for declaring interests, and the requirement councillors must disclose whether they are a property developer or a close associate of one.”

Ms Upton has released the new Model Code of Conduct and the councillor Induction and Professional Development Guidelines.

“Any councillor who abuses public office for personal or financial gain is firmly in the sights of the new Model Code of Conduct.

Other new requirements include:

  • Mandatory reporting of all gifts regardless of value in the council gift register
  • Councillors prohibited from accessing information about matters they have pecuniary interests in unless it is otherwise publicly available
  • Suspensions for pecuniary interest breaches will count towards the “three strikes and you’re out” scheme introduced in 2015 where councillors face automatic disqualification when they are suspended three times for misconduct
  • Councillors must declare new interests more regularly in official returns of interest lodged with their council
  • New standards relating to discrimination and harassment, bullying, work health and safety, use of social media, access to information and maintenance of council records.

NSW councils will have six months to adopt and implement codes of conduct that meet the new requirements.