The Local Government Bill 2019: Important changes set to take effect if enacted
The Local Government Bill 2019 was recently passed by the Lower House. If enacted, the Bill will come into force through a staged process, with the first suite of changes commencing on or before 1 July 2020.
The changes intended to be made centre around five broad themes:
We outline the important changes below.
Collaboration and entrepreneurial powers
If the Bill is enacted, councils will be able to work collaboratively through joint delegated committees. The ability to form these committees allows councils to develop and share solutions and resources, which will be particularly beneficial in matters which cross municipal boundaries and in achieving consistency where councils’ involvement may overlap. This ability will also assist in procurement matters. Opportunities are able to be jointly considered and decisions and strategic plans made which take into account broader policy needs as well as the particular needs of each participating council.
The current ability of councils to exercise entrepreneurial powers will continue under an ability to participate in ‘beneficial enterprises’. In conjunction with an ability to collaborate effectively with other councils, participating in beneficial enterprises will allow councils to engage with the different levels of government and the private sector to achieve impactful outcomes.
Some existing requirements for Ministerial approvals and consents will also be removed, allowing councils greater ability to act and responsibility for their municipalities.
New plans and policies
Councils will be required to adopt a range of plans and policies, including a community engagement, a public transparency, a complaint, a recruitment, an expenses policy, and a financial, an asset, and a workforce plan. Further detail as to the matters to be addressed by these plans and policies is anticipated to be prescribed by regulations.
Budgets will be required to be prepared each financial year for the following four years, rather than the current financial year only. This brings council budgets in line with state government budgets and is intended to encourage longer-term vision. Financial and asset plans will also need to be prepared for 10-year periods.
A CEO Employment and Remuneration Policy will also be required that is consistent with state government standards. This policy will be required to provide for independent professional advice to be obtained in relation to the matters contained in the policy as well as other matters to be prescribed by regulations.
CEOs may only be employed under a contract that does not exceed five years, although a CEO may be reappointed for a subsequent contract.
Delegations will need to be given anew to ensure compliance with the new Act. If the Bill is enacted, delegations made by a CEO under the current Local Government Act will continue to apply until 1 September 2020.
The Bill introduces standards of conduct to guide councillor behaviour, a process for appointment of a Principal Councillor Conduct Registrar, and a Councillor Conduct Panel process at VCAT to hear allegations of serious misconduct by councillors.
Subdivision of municipalities
It is proposed to move to a single consistent model of single member wards, unless it is impractical to subdivide a council into wards.
Voter enrolment change
The changes seek to make council electoral rolls more closely aligned with the state electoral roll.
We also refer you to our previous article on the Local Government Bill 2019 published in Inside track: Local Government.
Authors: Joseph Monaghan & Rachel Foo
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The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.