As a result of the increasing risk of potential legal action being taken or threatened against individual council members or employees, it may be appropriate for local governments to assist councillors and council employees by adopting a policy(s) to fund or partially fund the cost of providing legal representation in the appropriate circumstances.

In accordance with legislation requirements, local governments must maintain both public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance for their respective council. It is important to note that each local government is responsible for organising their own insurance and may choose an insurer of their choice when providing cover for their council.

When developing a suitable policy and procedure, local governments should be transparent and accountable when providing assistance and associated costs for councillors and employees so that the community maintains confidence that public funds are being expended in an appropriate way.

Some matters for consideration in developing an appropriate policy covering legal assistance and associated eligible expenses should include the following:

It is recommended that the policy covering legal assistance and associated eligible expenses for a councillor be included within the councillor expenses reimbursement policy. In addition to this, it is also recommended that councils adopt a similar policy for council employees to cover circumstances where legal assistance is to be provided by the council.

The model policy produced by the Western Australian Government which is a useful guide when considering the development of the policies covering legal assistance and associated eligible expenses for councillors and employees.