Councillors are not like a board of directors

Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig speaking at the conference

Local councillors are not like a board of directors – that’s the word from Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig.

Hoenig, who was a councillor for more than 30 years before becoming a State Member of Parliament, was speaking to more than 900 councillors at the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) conference this week.

He told the councillors they were there to “meet the obligations, the hopes, the aspirations” of their community.

“Don’t ever forget that and don’t let anyone tell you that’s not your job,” Hoenig said.

“The next person who tells you you are like a board of directors just put your fingers in your ears because that’s not what you are.”

His advice differs from that given by Central Coast Council Administrator Rik Hart at the October 18 candidate information night for potential councillors.

On that night, attended by about 50 residents, Hart likened the role of councillor to that of a board of directors.

Hart attended the LGNSW conference this week and heard Hoenig’s advice.

He told Coast News that the Local Government Act 1993 is clear in its direction to councillors.

“They are members of a governing body which is responsible for making strategic decisions (including financial) on behalf of their entire local government area,” Hart said.

“Governing bodies are strategic in nature and set the vision and direction of the organisation, and the Local Government Act was updated in 1993 to ensure these responsibilities are clearly defined.

“A board of directors of a company is not the same as a governing body of a local government entity; however, there are some similarities between the two as they both focus on strategic and high-level decision-making that is appropriately removed from the day-to-day operational activities of the organisation – matters which the CEO/General Manager is responsible for.”

Hoenig told the conference he had seen a general manager pointing to the photos of his council’s 15 councillors.

“He said, ‘see those people – they’re our bosses’ and he was right,” Hoenig said.

Hoenig also told the conference that councillors were a reflection of the community and so you couldn’t stop a “bad few” – there could be the “odd lunatic councillor”.

But he said he would be prepared to come out to the regions and campaign against them as the public should know about it and he was prepared to help.

Merilyn Vale

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