MAV raises concerns to the Local Government Bill exposure draft
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) response to the Local Government Bill exposure draft has welcomed many of the proposed reforms, but also raised a number of concerns.
These concerns include an expanded use of regulation, electoral structures, conflict of interest provisions, and a failure to properly review the rating system.
Cr Mary Lalios, President of the MAV said the once-in-a-generation-review of the Act was an opportunity to ensure the laws become more contemporary and reflect the evolution of local government.
“We are in a period of change, transformation and growth for local government.
“Significant parts of the Bill have received widespread support from councils, including a new 10-year community vision and financial plan, councils determining their own community engagement policies, and the requirements for councils to have a customer complaints policy and a publicly transparent gifts policy.
"There are also a number of provisions in the Bill that have changed from the State’s earlier Directions Paper. We are pleased the Government has listened and acted on earlier feedback received from councils.
The MAV developed a draft discussion paper to encourage sector consultation and input. The submission was informed by six member consultations held across Victoria and attended by more than 200 mayors, councillors and officers, together with subsequent submissions received from councils.
Cr Lalios said the Government had significantly shortened the proposed length of the legislation, but then intended to expand the use of regulation and best practice guidance.
“This change minimises Parliament’s role to determine local government practices, and instead shifts it to the Minister. What regulations might be introduced and their content is also unknown and raises further concerns.
“Our submission has opposed the proposal to remove mixed multi-member wards and the combination of multi-member and single member wards.
“These electoral structures have provided effective representation models in rural areas where populations are dispersed regionally and concentrated in towns.
“We have also raised concerns about the proposed ‘general conflict of interest’ provision, which is too broad and may result in councillors declaring conflicts in numerous and unintended situations.“
The MAV submission also reiterated local government’s ongoing opposition to the State Government rate cap and called for reconsideration of the arrangements for growth councils, together with a review and streamlining of the application process for a variation to the cap.
“Rates are the single biggest component of a council’s income. This review of the Local Government Act provided a prime opportunity for the State to comprehensively review the rating provisions with the sector and we urge the Government to consult further on this matter,” Cr Lalios said.