COUNCILLORS and mayors who seriously misbehave could be suspended for up to a year under new provisions in an amended Local Government Act introduced by the state government.
Victorian Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz introduced a bill into Parliament last Wednesday (23 May) to replace the Local Government Act 1989 in a move the Labor state government says “will modernise” councils across the state.
“Clearly defining” sexual harassment has been included in a revised councillors’ code of conduct included in the new Local Government Act.
The inclusion of the clause follows a high-profile investigation of former Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle amid complaints from female councillors about his conduct.
“We are bringing this Act into the 21st century – helping make councils more accountable and focused on the needs of their communities,” Ms Kairouz said.
“Mayors and councillors who behave badly will be gone for a year – the days of them acting with impunity are over.”
The Local Government Minister will also have “the power to suspend individual councillors who pose a significant threat to the governance of a council for up to a year”.
Councils will be required under the new Act to develop four-year budgets and the mayor of the day will provide an annual update on the budget plan to ratepayers each year.
“We want councils focused on the long-term and these changes will help them do exactly that,” Ms Kairouz said.
Frankston mayor Cr Colin Hampton said council “has been briefed on the Act and is generally supportive”.
“This new Bill has been reviewed to meet current requirements and is contemporary and more logically structured,” Cr Hampton said.
The updated Local Government Act for Victorian councils comes after three years of community consultation.
The Local Government Minister sent a municipal monitor to Frankston Council in December last year for 18 months in the wake of “governance concerns” reported by then-mayor Cr Brian Cunial and council CEO Dennis Hovenden to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.
The new Act is unrelated to the monitor’s stay at Frankston.