Local Government Reform to Unlock GWS Future

Belinda Wallis •
June 25, 2024

Measures to stop local government executive churn and a new code of conduct to halt the weaponising of costly complaints are among a raft of recommendations detailed in a new discussion paper aimed at highlighting the important role of local councils.  

Drafted by the Western Sydney Dialogue, the Building Strong Local Government policy paper calls for local government reform to unlock the future potential of Greater Western Sydney.

With major projects such as the Western Sydney International Airport and new Metro lines set to transform the region, Dialogue CEO Adam Leto said it was time for local councils to evolve and adapt.

“Western Sydney’s booming population will increase demands on social services, infrastructure, leisure facilities and environmental sustainability – and local councils need to be given the tools and skills to deliver,” Mr Leto said.

“While most councils operate well and provide great services to their community, Western Sydney has at times experienced the worst of local government. When local leaders and institutions fail, the consequences for Western Sydney’s residents can be severe.

“As NSW prepares to elect new councils in 2024, it’s time to discuss how the NSW Government can work with local councils to improve governance, promote higher standards of performance and professionalism to meet community expectations.”

One key recommendation from the policy paper is to elevate the City of Parramatta to the same status as the City of Sydney, with a directly elected four-year term Lord Mayor and appointing a new Parramatta Planning Committee.

“Parramatta is a booming city, buoyed by strong population and employment growth and driven by billions of dollars in public and private investment. At the epicentre of Sydney, its success is critical to the city’s prosperity,” Mr Leto said.

“Parramatta should be supported in its growth to fulfil its potential, with a local government framework that reflects its CBD status.”

Developed in consultation with Dialogue stakeholders and local government experts, the Building Strong Local Government policy paper includes six key recommendations:


  • Separate politics from the recruitment and termination of CEOs and GMs

The appointment or termination of a General Manager should require a two-thirds vote of the Council. This balances the right of councils to terminate a GM when necessary, while reducing executive churn and mitigating the risks of corruption and political influence during recruitment or termination.


  • Introduce Professional Pay for Professional Councillors

Councillors should be paid a stipend equivalent to a director of a major company with a similar revenue/service delivery base to reflect the increase in expectations of their qualification and professionalism.

  • Improve the skills of elected officials through bespoke education and training courses

The Office of Local Government should work with respected training bodies to create and deliver an accredited company directors’ course specifically for local government councillors, with mandatory attendance.


  • Adopt NSW Government probity provisions for local government

The NSW Government should replicate state probity provisions for local government and include local government under the NSW Government’s Lobbyist Register. Local councils should be added to existing legislation to prohibit political donations from individuals and companies involved in or connected to property development. Members of the real estate industry and property developers should be banned from local government.


  • Restore pride in local government through a new Councillor Code of Conduct

A new Model Code of Conduct for councillors to address the costly “weaponising” of the current Code of Conduct procedures. A simplified Code of Conduct that is principles-based could empower councils to resolve issues and curtail the large fees charged by external consultants. The new Code should also identify principles for desirable attire of both councillors and chambers.


  • Elevate the City of Parramatta through a new Act

The City of Parramatta Act should be amended to elevate it to equal status with the City of Sydney and include a directly elected Lord Mayor with a four-year term, abolition of Wards so that each Councillor represents the LGA and the formation of a City of Parramatta Planning Committee, with development consent powers shared between the City and the NSW Government.

The full report is available on our website