The Victorian Local Government Bill 2019 is waiting to be considered by the Legislative Assembly before moving to the Legislative Council. The Bill could be passed in its current form, or it could be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for further public consultation and scrutiny.
The proposed changes can be divided into five key themes:
* Improved service delivery: Allow councils to focus on better financial management and engagement with their communities to deliver better services
* Improved councillor conduct: Set minimum training requirements for candidates and councillors and clearer standards of behaviour with stronger mechanisms to address poor conduct
* Stronger local democracy: Increase council and councillor’s direct accountability to the community
* Community confidence: Reforms election processes and candidate requirements to increase transparency
* New relationships: Remove any unnecessary Ministerial approvals and arbitrary powers to build a new relationship between the State, local government and communities
Here is a summary of the key proposed reforms across the five themes:
* removing significant amounts of the ‘detail’ in the Act around processes and procedures, and instead placing a greater reliance on regulations, Ministerial guidelines and council policies
* a four year budget cycle, consistent with State Government budgets, with the expectation of an annual review
* 10-year financial plans and asset plans
* implementing a CEO Employment and Remuneration Policy that aligns council CEO employment and remuneration with that of Victorian public sector entities
* enabling joint meetings of councils and greater council collaboration and innovation, particularly for procurement opportunities
* empowering community members to set the agenda for their municipality through a mandated Community Vision of at least 10 years, to be developed in consultation with the local community.
* simplifying enrolments to vote in council elections to more closely align council electoral rolls with State electoral rolls
* mandatory training for council election candidates and Councillors to improve competency, skills and transparency
* simplifying electoral structures to provide greater consistency of representative structures – in essence this will involve introducing a preference for single member wards to make councils more accountable
* setting clear standards of conduct to guide Councillor behaviour, and establishing a centralised internal resolution process managed by a Principal Councillor Conduct Registrar to help councils deal with low-level misconduct more efficiently
* introducing new pathways that can lead to the disqualification of a Councillor.
You can view the complete Bill here.