Archive:  Local Government Act Review

Last Updated  7/7/19



NEW  All-New Local Government Bill (Act) Is Still Being Changed - Comment Until 17 July

(7/7/19 - C)  Councillors get even more stringent rules to keep them in line, but not council staff. 

The Victorian State government is moving ahead with introducing a completely new Local Government Act.  The process started in 2015 by consulting councils and community, with the new Act intended to be introduced before the 2018 State election.  That didn't happen.  The Bill is now heading back to parliament, with a major change proposed to Environmental Upgrade Agreements as well as nine additional new 'reforms' (changes) grouped under 5 themes. 


The State government is asking for your comments on the latest proposed reforms.  Find out more at  


To provide feedback on the proposed reforms, email  using the subject line Local Government Bill 2019 by 17 July 2019.


Changes include:


Change to proposed Environmental Upgrade Agreement provisions to allow these agreements to made in regard to residential properties (not included in the Exposure Draft).

Draft Division 5 (Sections 133 - 137) provides for a Council to fund works that improve energy, water or environmental efficiency by entering into an agreement with land owners or occupiers, and provides for a Council to be the lending body. 


One problem with these provisions is that they stray from most ratepayers' perceptions of a Council's role (making a Council more like a money lender that lends ratepayers' money), and another is that the Local Government Bill doesn't include reporting requirements for these agreements (i.e. how a Council is to report its lending, debt and charges to ratepayers).  Initially only available to non-residential properties, the new reforms propose to make environmental upgrade agreements available for (private) residential properties as well.


New Reforms  NB  Reforms for the City of Melbourne may differ.


1  Changes to Voter Franchise - Proposes to rely on the State electoral roll instead of the current combination of State electoral roll and Council-prepared ratepayer rolls.  In addition, non-resident ratepayers would be required to apply to be enrolled to vote in Council elections instead of being automatically included on the roll.  Changes would come into full effect for the 2024 Council election.   Doesn't exclude international land owners from voting in Council elections.


2  Changes to Make Single-Councillor Wards Mandatory For Council Elections  - Abolishes multi-councillor wards (as Macedon Ranges Shire currently has, with 3 Councillors elected in each of 3 wards).  This reform would logically also change the method of vote counting, replacing the current proportional vote counting and quota system with preferential vote counting (where 50% of the formal vote plus one vote wins).  Quite an upheaval, as it was when Macedon Ranges Shire was required to change from 9 single-councillor wards to 3 multi-councillor wards before the 2005 Council election.  Voters will be confused, and more candidates will be required to make a genuine contest in each of 9 wards.  Wondering if this change is necessary...  Councillors tend to become a tad more territorial about "their" wards in the single-councillor ward system, although this system does help shine a light on councillors not pulling their weight.  


3A  Changes Requiring Training for Council Election Candidates - Candidates nominating to run in a Council election will need to demonstrate they have undertaken relevant training otherwise their nomination as a candidate will be rejected.  While there is merit in having candidates who know what a Council does, rejecting candidates if they haven't participated in training seems unreasonable, and a step too far.  The State government claims it seeks a balance with this reform but overall this mandatory training requirement is likely to put more people off nominating as candidates thus restricting democratic processes.  Perhaps this system could be tested first with candidates nominating for State elections?


3B  Changes Requiring Elected Councillors to Undertake Councillor Induction Training - If a Councillor doesn't participate in training after they are elected, their Councillor allowance will be withheld.  Sounds reasonable, but only if training is provided by experts independent of the Council organisation (i.e. not the CEO or Council staff).


4  Changes to Donations - Bans foreign-sourced campaign donations (tick).  $1,000 cap on donations to candidates from a single donor.  Threshold of $250 for gifts for campaign donations and gifts received by Councillors.  Councils are to maintain a gift register and gift policy relating to gift acceptance and disposal by councillors and staff.   An improvement but the restrictions overall still won't produce really satisfactory outcomes for transparency and accountability. 


5A  Changes to Prescribed Standards Of Conduct - Removes the Councillor Code of Conduct Principles from the Local Government Act and transfers them to the LGA Regulations.  Standards are to be more specific to provide a clearer understanding of what is required of Councillors.   Mmm.. but are any improvements proposed to codes, standards and accountability for staff?


5B  Changes to Internal Arbitration Process - Currently, low-level internal disputes within the Council organisation are in the first instance dealt with internally, with an arbiter appointed by a Council.  The current

Act addresses interpersonal disputes as well as allegations of misbehaviour.  Changes remove interpersonal disputes and confine legislation to dealing with allegations of misconduct, and require a qualified arbiter to be appointed from a Principal Councillor Conduct Register who will be empowered to directly impose minor disciplinary penalties.  Pluses and minuses in this, but biggest concern is it makes no direct reference to this process (or another) applying to Council staff.


Changes Relating to Councillor Disqualification - Conduct -  The 2018 Local Government Bill proposed giving the Minister powers to suspend a Councillor but this change instead proposes two new means by which a Councillor can be disqualified:


6A  Disqualification - Repeated Serious Misconduct -  Councillor Conduct Panels hear allegations of serious misconduct against Councillors.  If serious misconduct allegations are upheld twice within eight years, the Councillor will be automatically disqualified, and ineligible to contest another Council election for the next four years.   Again, where is an equivalent process for addressing serious misconduct by Council staff?


6B  Community Initiated Commission of Inquiry - Something of an improvement, because there hasn't been a mechanism like this giving powers to a community since the Local Government Act's old 'poll of voters' provisions were repealed some years ago.  Under the old 'poll of voter' provisions, a community could demand a municipality-wide poll (vote) on, and rescind, a Council decision if 10% of registered voters supported holding a poll and a third of all valid votes at the poll supported overturning the Council decision, which could then no longer be made.   The new provision for a petition calling for a Commission of Inquiry requires 25% of eligible voters to sign up, making the new provision more onerous and less targetted than the old.   The State government's explanation of this provision advises a Commission of Inquiry can be called to conduct an Inquiry into the affairs of a Council but doesn't elaborate on this and instead goes on to set out an Inquiry's powers to disqualify a Councillor.  Again, where is the community being given an opportunity to challenge Council and Council staff behaviour?


MRRA Says:


Almost everyone would agree there have been examples of appalling Councillor behaviour over the years which needed to be brought under control.  But, hey, when a Council goes bad the fault can come from the Council organisation as well.  It takes two to tango and there have been examples of the behaviour of staff being equally appalling. This isn't being addressed, or at least adequately addressed, in the new Local Government Act.  In fact, the Association's take on the new legislation is that it if anything either reduces requirements for or further empowers staff (including the CEO) while taking strong measures to regulate Councillors.  This may satisfy the local government sector, but something tells us having their elected representatives made subservient to unelected staff isn't going to meet community expectations for sound, transparent, accountable - or democratic, come to that - local government.


Note:  On 26 June 2019 under Urgent Business, Macedon Ranges Shire Councillors voted to authorise the Chief Executive Officer to make a submission on the new reforms (moved Cr. Twaits, seconded Cr. Bleeck).


State Government Announces Next Stage Of Local Government Act Review Consultation.  Submissions close September 16

(19/7/16 - C)   A completely overhauled Local Government Act and substantial changes are proposed.  A quick look suggests plenty of good moves, but others aren't as welcome including Mayors being elected for 2 year terms, removing some requirements for Councils to report to / gain consent from the Minister, and - gulp - some assumptions that Councils 'will do the right thing'.   What?  In Macedon Ranges Shire?? 


The Minister for Local Government, Natalie Hutchins, last month released the Local Government Act Review Directions Paper, "Act For The Future", for public comment.   Relevant documents include the full "Act For The Future" report, and a short version of it, both available from the Your Council, Your Community website.  This website also provides information about the several ways to have input through submissions or a Quick Poll of key issues (you can complete the poll at the Your Council Your Community website).  


MRRA Says:


Our suggestion is to at least read the first 24 pages of the report which gives an overview of what is proposed.  Some changes are definitely a step in the right direction, others... not so sure.  What do you think?  Publishing the CEO's remuneration policy on Council's website, policy for customer complaints including an independent process to address them, having the CEO do a police and ASIC check of Council election candidates / requiring candidates to provide this information at nomination, new regulations for an "engagement strategy", using the new Senate 'partial preferential' voting system for Council elections, expanding allowed the number of councillors from 12 to 15, removing matters about employment of council staff and the CEO from the Local Government Act, and so on.   


There's a real difficulty with proposals to empower Mayors (to the point of making a Mayor "the boss" and privy to information other councillors aren't).  Most residents would tell you they elect nine councillors here, not 8 councillors and a mayor.


We will do some more homework and let you know the "big" issues in time for you to make a submission. 



Local Government Act Review - Submissions On Discussion Paper Due 18 December

(24/11/15 - C)   Here's your chance to get improvements to how councils behave - who could resist that? 

The State government is reviewing the Local Government Act, which is the Act that empowers and controls what Councils can do and how they are supposed to behave.   The government has published an excellent Discussion Paper that provides a clear "English" explanation of the Act, what it does and what might be improved - and why. 


The government has said it wants to make local government more 'community friendly', so community participation is critical


 Find out more from  and download a copy of the Discussion Paper from


Submissions can be made by downloading the submission form, then either uploading it to the government's website or posting it.  Find out more or lodge your submission from


MRRA Says:

It's a big ask, but a worthwhile one.   Every person even thinking about running for Council next year should attempt to read the Discussion Paper, because it explains local government in a way which is easily understood.  Residents too - there's not much point complaining about Council if you don't do something when the opportunity comes along, is there.... 

MRRA Submission Local Government Act Review  18/12/15



MRRA recently met the Minister for Local Government, and asked her the following question:

When councils (administration and councillors) do not operate democratically, openly or accountably, or act as a board of directors, it is deeply offensive to be told “you can change that at the ballot box”, not least because the ballot box can’t change a council’s administration.   Councils have over time been afforded some of the privileges of parliament, without equivalent ‘checks and balances’. The current ‘accountability’ system is failing communities, and does not provide ‘accountability’ authorities with sufficient legislative jurisdiction to even address complaints.  The result is it appears councils – no matter how badly they behave – are ‘teflon-coated’, and no-one has, can or will take responsibility for a council that operates outside the spirit and the letter of the law, and community expectations.   Does the government have intentions to strengthen legislation to provide more ‘checks and balances’ for councils, including a means by which communities can hold their councils to account , and if so, what changes are proposed?

The Minister looked a little shocked when we added a Councillor has said our community group has "corrupt opinion" and our community group has been publicly defamed in Council chamber, on more than one occasion (and it has).  She responded that more work was needed to improve Councillor and CEO/staff performance standards and accountability.   She urged community members to get involved in the Local Government Act review. 


And so does MRRA.  Please, make a submission by December 18.  It doesn't have to be a lot, a little will do.  Here are the Discussion Paper chapters to get you thinking:


Chapter2: The role of Councils (stop acting like a board of directors!).

Chapter 3: How councils are elected (we would also like to know how a community can un-elect a council)

Chapter 4: How councils operate (there has to be a way of getting better performance and behaviour than Macedon Ranges' Council provides)

Chapter 5:  Planning and reporting (holey-moley - this is about how council spends and tells us it spends our money)

Chapter 6: Council Rates and Charges (you will know the drill on this one!)

Chapter 7: Service delivery and financial decision making (plenty of scope here)

Chapter 8: Councillor conduct, offences and enforcement (our favourite)

Chapter 9: Ministerial powers (please expand them to allow instant dismissal of rotten councils)

Chapter 10:  Harmonisation of the Local Government Act (looking at other acts that confer powers on councils)