COUNCIL CHAOS: policy reviews nearly a decade late

A STAGGERING 66 out of 79 of North Burnett Regional Council's general policies are overdue for review, some by almost a decade.

The bombshell information is contained within a scathing report presented by council's acting general manager for corporate and community to councillors at their October meeting in Eidsvold.

The report urges a "comprehensive overhaul" of council's policies, warning to not do so would expose council to "significant reputational risk but may also compromise legal, transparent and sound decision making".

It also warns of a risk council could be taken to court over its decisions if they aren't based on an airtight policy framework.

There is also a concern that some policies may be duplicated, have limited application or be out of date.

The report also said there was "inconsistency" between some of council's policies and the way staff have been instructed to apply those policies.

It noted that one of the conclusions of the Crime and Corruption Commission's investigation into corruption at Ipswich City Council was that deficiency "in the governance around policies and their application at a council" could provide an environment where corruption may occur.

The Local Government Association of Queensland's Councillor Handbook and Good Governance Guide says that clear policies "provide a framework within which day-to-day decisions can be made with consistency and impartiality".

General policies, as opposed to statutory policies imposed by the State Government, are not legally binding.

North Burnett Regional Council has many general policies, governing things like graffiti, tourism, repairs to roads, volunteers, the environment, the rural fire levy, abandoned vehicles, wild dog management, wandering livestock and kerbside collection.

It is policies such as these which have fallen well behind their self-imposed review date.

Policies 207 and 208, 'Arts & Cultural Policy' and 'Tourism' respectively, were due for review on May 6, 2010, eight months shy of a decade ago.

Another four policies, including 'Rural Fire Brigade Units Utilisation' and 'Debtors Recovery', were due for review in 2011, while four more were due in 2012.

A council spokesman aimed to hose down concern, telling the Times that policies which haven't been reviewed for a long period "may (still) be working well".

"North Burnett Regional Council is doing an overhaul of its approach to policies, to enable more nimble and effective actioning of council's policy position," he said.

"This will streamline documents and move Council away from the traditional 'large' suite of policies that require a high level of resourcing to maintain."


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