Stronger Councillor Conduct Standards To Be Introduced
Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins today announced the Andrews Labor Government’s plan to strengthen councillor conduct standards.
The proposed Local Government (Improved Governance) Bill 2015, to be presented to Parliament in the next month, will clarify expectations of councillors, provide tougher standards against councillors doing the wrong thing and ensure councils have the ability to respond earlier to misbehaviour.
Ms Hutchins said that since becoming the responsible Minister and speaking with local councils across the state, it had become clear improvements to the conduct system were desperately needed – particularly in time for the 2016 council general elections.
Once agreed to by the Parliament, the Bill will immediately update and improve the current councillor conduct framework that was introduced into the Local Government Act in 2008.
Reforms will include requiring councillors to agree to codes of conduct before taking office, making it mandatory for councils to establish procedures to deal with alleged breaches, and enabling conduct panels to suspend councillors for six months in instances of serious misconduct.
The changes will also afford the Minister the power to direct councils to improve governance and, on the advice of municipal monitor, stand down councillors for up to 6 months to allow a panel to hear the matter. Councillor discretionary funds, known as ward funds, will also be outlawed.
The Labor Government is committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of conduct and governance across Victoria’s 79 councils, in addition to more transparent, open and accountable local government.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins
“The proposed Bill will give councils and the Victorian Government a broader range of powers to deal with councillors in breach of their codes of conduct.”
“Misconduct among Victoria’s 624 councillors is thankfully rare. But when it does happen, it is an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction that could be more easily dealt with by responsive and robust conduct laws .”
“I have consulted widely about the need to improve the current councillor conduct rules, and I’ve heard loud and clear that we need a system that can respond quickly and appropriately.”