The Government Has Unveiled the Sweeping Reforms to Address Councillor Misconduct and Boost Accountability.
In a groundbreaking move, the Victorian Government has unveiled a comprehensive set of reforms to enhance accountability and governance standards within the state’s local councils. With Minister for Local Government Melissa Horne leading the charge, the proposed changes respond to growing concerns over poor councillor behaviour, fostering an environment that erodes public confidence in local government.
The multifaceted reforms include mandatory training for elected representatives, the establishment of a uniform councillor code of conduct, and expanded powers for the Minister to address instances of misconduct. These measures, set to be introduced early next year, are a direct response to the urgent need for action, highlighted by the Local Government Culture Project, which received over 140 submissions from various stakeholders.
Under the proposed reforms, the Local Government Act 2020 will undergo amendments requiring induction training for new councillors and a renewed emphasis on ongoing education. Recognizing the vital role of good governance in decision-making and service delivery, the Minister will be empowered to suspend or disqualify councillors found to pose risks to health and safety or hinder the proper functioning of the council.
The Chief Municipal Inspector will also see an expansion of powers, including the ability to issue infringement notices, further strengthening oversight within local government. A cornerstone of the reforms is the introduction of a model code of conduct for councillors, featuring stricter sanctions for misconduct. This standardized approach aims to reduce the regulatory burden on councils, eliminating the need for individual codes.
The government plans to engage with the sector in the coming months, seeking input on the legislation and collaborating throughout the next year to develop regulations for the councillor model code of conduct and mandatory training. The legislative timeline targets the first quarter of 2024 for implementation, aligning with recommendations from integrity bodies such as the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) and the Chief Municipal Inspector.
Minister Melissa Horne emphasized that these changes are crucial to meeting the high expectations Victorians rightly have for their local councillors. The reforms address immediate concerns and aim to create an environment that encourages quality candidates to step forward and participate in the 2024 elections. Stay tuned as Victoria takes bold steps towards a more transparent and accountable local governance system.