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Government plugging local authority legal loophole

The Minister of Local Government, Hon Sandra Lee, says the Government has acted to remove the possibility of challenges to the validity of some local authority decisions.

The Government today introduced legislation, which the House debated and passed through all stages, to ensure where the appointments of local authority chief executives have been rolled over beyond a term of 5 years, that this is not a ground to challenge decisions of that local authority or the chief executive, even though the chief executive’s position should have been advertised.

Local Government Minister Sandra Lee said the Solicitor-General had advised that key provisions of the Local Government Act 1974 require a local authority to notify a vacancy in the office of chief executive at least once every five years.

"The audit office believes about 30 local authority chief executives have been in their jobs since 1989 and that it is likely all of them have had their contracts rolled over beyond their five year terms instead of the positions being re-advertised and fresh applications called for," said Ms Lee.

"The Local Government (Validation of Reappointments) Bill, aims to remove the possibility of challenges to local authority decisions based on doubt about the validity of chief executive reappointments", she said.

The Solicitor-General has informed the Government of the possibility of judicial review proceedings against local authorities where chief executives, who have had their jobs rolled over, exercised decision-making powers.

The Government has also been informed that people affected by local authority decisions might also bring legal challenges on the basis that a council decision was tainted by the involvement of a chief executive of legally questionable standing, or that the chief executive acted outside his or her legal powers in implementing a council decision.

"While there may not be any legal challenges to date, the passing of this Bill will validate the re-appointments of chief executives who have had their jobs rolled over," said Ms Lee.

She said the Government was considering changes to the Act as requested by the local government sector, which would allow local authorities the discretion to reappoint their CE for a term exceeding 5 years, without the need for advertising the position.

ends

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