City submission to Local Government Act review

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Greater Bendigo City Council’s submission to the Local Government Act Exposure Draft Bill supports the recognition of councils as a distinct tier of government, but argues for less prescriptive regulation and greater autonomy.

Council supports a principle-based act and the three overriding objectives for the new act, which are:

  • Victorians will better understand and value the role of councils as democratically elected bodies
  • Councils will drive reform across the state by being more autonomous and outcome-oriented; and by embracing innovative and collaborative arrangements
  • The Act will be a living document that tells people clearly what councils do and how to get involved

However, Council’s submission states that “it is the right of democratically elected bodies to make decisions suitable for, and answerable to, the community that elects it, with state intervention limited to extreme circumstances”.

The submission:

  • Supports provisions clarifying the role and specific powers of the Mayor, but maintains that it should be up to each council to determine the length of the Mayoral term
  • Urges the State Government to commission an independent review of councillor allowances because the allowance structure does not reflect the evolving role of councillors and is an impediment to achieving diversity in council candidates
  • Does not support the requirement for a Chief Executive Remuneration Policy as it is within Council’s competence to determine what is appropriate remuneration in a local context
  • Supports retention of ‘senior officer’ administrative delegation
  • Supports a 10-year community vision but with the flexibility to be reviewed by a new Council
  • Supports retention of differential rates and the use of the Capital Improved Value to determine property values

Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke said Council supported the principles of increased efficiency, transparency and community engagement.

“We appreciate what the State Government is trying to achieve but we also want to avoid unnecessary regulation,” Cr O’Rourke said.

“If regulation is too prescriptive, it will limit Council’s ability to be responsive to community needs.

“We believe Councils should be responsible for setting a clear vision, working within fair and practical legislation to provide for their communities and able to be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances.”

The new Local Government Act is expected to be passed by the State Government by mid-2018.

A Council report to be considered on Wednesday evening recommends Council endorse the submission to the Local Government Bill Exposure Draft.

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