Council Plan Changes Puts Residents First
The Andrews Labor Government has unveiled its first major decision as part of the reform of the Local Government Act requiring all councils by law to develop four year plans with their communities.
The change will give residents more say in their council’s priorities, services and budgets – putting local residents first and ensuring improved accountability at election time.
The need for local communities to have a stronger say in guiding council directions was a major theme during consultation on the new Local Government Act.
Community consultation also revealed 90 per cent of participants supported a requirement for councils to engage local residents when forming their plans, with 96 per cent in favour of annual reporting on its implementation.
This is the first step in the Labor Government’s push to make sure residents play a bigger role in their local council.
Councils currently are only required to exhibit the plans for 28 days and take submissions. The Labor Government wants them to involve communities from the start through tools like citizens juries or community panels.
These tools have been trialled at the City of Melbourne, Darebin, Yarra, Geelong and South Gippsland Shire.
The change, along with many others, will be introduced late next year.
The Labor Government is undertaking the first comprehensive review of the Local Government Act since its inception in 1989.
While all elements of the existing Act are under review, the requirement for councillors to consult their communities on strategic plans is the first change unveiled from the ongoing review.
Other reforms are proposed in the review’s Directions Paper, Act for the Future, which was launched in June and is available at www.yourcouncilyourcommunity.vic.gov.au.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins
“We have spent the past two years putting people first by delivering on the things that matter to them – like giving them a say on the local services they use every day.”
“It’s common sense that councils should consult their communities when making their future plans and then be judged on that at election time.”