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Lee Introduces Local Govt Bill

Lee Introduces Bills To Modernise And Democratise Local Government

The Minister of Local Government has introduced a publicly long-awaited Bill into Parliament today that provides for councils' local authority trading enterprises (LATES) to be able to operate beyond a narrow commercial focus and also be able to take into account non-commercial considerations, including social and environmental consequences.

"In future, there will be no doubt that a local authority trading enterprise should display 'a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates' as one of its objectives," Ms Lee said.

"The proposed law changes in the Local Government Elected Member Remuneration and Trading Enterprises Amendment Bill will enable local authorities to direct their local authority trading enterprises to use discretion over how their decisions impact on groups such as low income earners and beneficiaries."

She said the same Bill would also bring local authority trading enterprises under the official information provisions of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and the Ombudsmen Act.

"The greater transparency that will be required of them in future is consistent with modern principles of open government," Ms Lee said.

"All these new provisions are intended to increase the accountability of councils' local authority trading enterprises to the wider community."

Ms Lee said a second Bill introduced at Parliament today, the Local Electoral Bill, would repeal the current 1976 legislation and put a more modern framework in place in time for the October 2001 local authority elections.

She said the Local Electoral Bill would provide for the adoption of preferential voting using the Single Transferable Voting (STV) method by local authorities as an option for the 2004 elections, but only if STV is the local choice.

"It will be a freely chosen option, with the decision made at the local level, " Ms Lee said.

She said STV would not be available until the 2004 local authority elections to enable local consideration of this alternative in an informed manner.
This consideration also needs to be given in the context of local authority triennial reviews of the basis of election, including issues of the number and size of wards which would impact on the effectiveness of STV.

Ms Lee said local proposals for the 2001 elections were already well under way before decisions on the introduction of this Bill were made.

The Minister said the Bill would also introduce limits on candidates’ campaign spending to promote equal opportunities for participation and fair representation.

"The notion of limiting candidate spending has been discussed by local authorities during recent months, with most favouring the setting of some form of limit ," Ms Lee said.

She said of the two measures introduced today, the Local Electoral Bill would have priority in order to ensure the new electoral framework was in place for next year's local authority elections. Ms Lee expected the Bill would be referred to the Justice and Electoral select committee and it would hear public submissions early next year.


Ends

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