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DEALING WITH DISAFFECTED COUNCILLORS

ISSUE

Disaffected councillors can affect relationships between councillors, undermine the reputation of council, and disrupt decision-making processes.

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SCENARIO

John is a councillor in an outer urban municipality. He’s recently been on the losing side of a series of votes including the council plan, the budget and some key projects. Now he‘s feeling marginalised and has started to publicly criticise the council and its processes. The majority of his fellow councillors respond in-kind which has led to poor behaviour, both inside and outside the chamber.

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WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

If councillors believe their views are not being considered in the decision-making process, they will look for alternative ways to have an impact. Public or private criticism of other councillors and the administration, leaking of information, and failing to distinguish between the views of the council and individual opinions can all make the process of decision making more difficult, as well as undermine the council’s reputation in the local community.

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HOW TO TACKLE THIS SITUATION

  • the mayor needs to determine whether the councillor’s motivations are legitimate or deliberately destructive – the outcome may be the same, but the way the issue is handled can vary considerably
  • as the leader of the council, the mayor’s role is to ensure every councillor feels that they have a meaningful part to play in the processes and that their views are being heard
  • both the mayor and the Chief Executive Officer should talk to the councillor and hopefully agree on a more productive way of dealing with the situation
  • if confidential information has been leaked, the councillor must be made aware of the provisions and penalties contained in the Local Government Act 1989 and told that they will be enforced
  • local government associations may be able to provide mediation or impartial advice to resolve the issue.

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