The state government’s decision to allow councillors with a vested interest to vote on an issue has sparked concerns.

The Greens have argued the changes to the Local Government Act would open the door to “legal” corruption, making Maitland residents’ choice of councillors in September’s local government

election critical.

Senator and local government spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said elected officials should not be allowed to vote on proposals that would give them direct financial benefit.

“This legislation will encourage some property owners and developers to put up their hand to run for local councils, not because they are interested in serving and improving their local community, but because they stand to make increased profits from voting to improve the development yield on their own land,” she said.

Previously, councillors who owned or had an interest in property council was considering for development approval were required to declare their interest and leave the room before voting could proceed.

Greens mayoral candidate for Maitland Jan Davis said she was horrified at the government’s decision.

“This means we could have big developers on council who go and sit in the chamber and vote as long as they declare their interests,” she said.

“It won’t be a democratic system.”

Ms Davis said candidates should reveal their interests and let Maitland people decide if they should become a councillor. “People want to know councillors aren’t voting with their pockets, but with this legislation they will be legally allowed to do this,” she said.

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