Council is advocating to the Minister for Local Government the Hon Adem Somyurek to voice its concern about the Victorian Government’s intention to introduce six new reforms with the draft Local Government Bill 2019.
The Minister announced on 17 June 2019 that the Victorian Government intended to re-introduce the draft Local Government Bill 2019 into the Spring session of Parliament, with six new proposed reforms.
Maroondah Mayor Councillor Rob Steane said Council had serious concerns about the process and potential impact the six new reforms might have on local government and the communities they represent.
“Council will advocate to the Minister to express our strong objection to the new reforms being introduced to the draft Bill, as we believe that by introducing them at the last minute, with minimal consultation with the sector and community, there has not been adequate opportunity to identify any unintended consequences.
“The new proposed reforms, including mandated single member wards and processes for voter petitions, appear to have been based solely on anecdotal feedback with no evidence base or consideration for the impact they may have on Council’s and our communities.
“We do not see any benefit to rushing through legislation of such magnitude, particularly given that there has been no Exposure Draft, or Bill drafted and made available to Councils; no wording of the new reform proposals has been drafted, with reference to relevant sections within the Bill; no supporting Regulations have been drafted; and no regulatory impact statement has been drafted,” Cr Steane said.
“Council believes that these are all important elements that need to be prepared, tested and consulted on before a Bill is put to Parliament. All we are asking for is a process that is based on good governance and transparency,” Cr Steane said.
“The 44-day feedback window provided by the Minister and Local Government Victoria is inadequate and ignores Council’s governance processes. In fact, the approach taken by the Victorian Government in this instance seems to contradict its commitment to building collaborative working relationships and strengthening communication and consultation with the Local Government sector,” Cr Steane said.
“What Council is asking for is that the 2019 Reform Proposals are deferred for 12 to 18 months to allow for a thorough examination of the issues, including cost impacts on Councils and the considered development of options in consultation with the sector,” Cr Steane said.
“Council will be writing to all of our local Members of Parliament seeking their support on these matters,” Cr Steane said.
“In Maroondah, this is particularly timely as we are currently part of an Electoral Representation Review, being undertaken by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The purpose of the review is to ensure that the electoral structure of a local Council provides fair and equitable representation for all voters,” Cr Steane said.
“The Local Government Act 1989 requires the VEC to review each Council approximately every 12 years, and the review will continue despite the Minister’s proposal to introduce the Bill, which includes the intent to move towards single member Wards,” Cr Steane said.
Maroondah Councillors attended a MAV Members Forum on July 5, at which similar concerns were raised by Councillors across the sector. In response, a letter expressing these combined views has been prepared by the MAV and sent to the Minister.