New bill aims to keep Victoria’s councils accountable

The Andrews Labor Government is seeking feedback on a proposed Local Government Act with six new reforms.

It aims to “deliver better outcomes for local communities” by improving Victoria’s 79 councils.

Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek today announced the government’s hopes to introduce the 2019 bill into parliament later this year.

“The new laws will help councils be more accountable, democratic and responsive,” Somyurek said.

The proposed reforms include:

  • Simplifying and clarify enrolments for voters in council elections.
  • Introducing mandatory training for council election candidates and councillors.
  • Capping electoral campaign donations and gifts.
  • Allowing for the dismissal of a councillor after a community-initiated Commission of Inquiry.
  • Defining standards of conduct to guide councillor behaviour and make dealing with councillor conduct issues faster and easier.
  • Introducing a preference for single member wards to make councils more accountable.

The new bill retains the reforms under the 2018 bill that were “designed to empower councils to improve service delivery, by focusing on deliberative engagement and long-term financial management”.

These reforms will:

  • Require councils to involve their community in developing policy and long-term planning.
  • Align CEO employment and renumeration to public sector entities.
  • Enable joint meetings of councils and greater council collaboration and innovation.
  • Empower community members to set the agenda for their municipality through a Community Vision.

“These changes boost consultation and engagement between councils, residents, ratepayers and businesses – as well as providing for ongoing accountability,” Somyurek said.

The provisions of the bill will come in four stages, from its initial passing through to late 2021, according to the Victorian government.

A separate review process has also been announced to assess the rating provisions of the Act. New rating provisions will likely be enacted after that review has been completed in March 2020.

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