PROPOSED new powers allowing the local government minister to suspend individual councillors could have seen some of the City of Greater Bendigo’s last term of councillors ousted.
The council called for the measure in its original submission to the review of the Local Government Act, legislation that local government minister Marlene Kairouz introduced into parliament this week.
In 2016, Bendigo councillors discussed and approved the inclusion of the measure in its submission, but it was not accepted unanimously.
At the time, councillors Helen Leach and Peter Cox spoke against giving the state minister the power.
Bendigo councillors came under the spotlight that year due to a number of Code of Conduct review panels addressing breaches of the code.
Under the Local Government Act 1989, the minister has the power to sack an entire council and not individual councillors.
The inclusion of the power in the new bill took representative groups by surprise.
Representative body, the Victorian Local Governance Authority, is not clear yet about the circumstances under which a state government minister could suspend a councillor.
The state government has said councillors could be stood aside for up to a year if they posed a significant threat to the governance of a council.
“We are bringing this act into the 21st century – helping make councils more accountable and focussed on the needs of their circumstances,” Ms Kairouz said.
“Mayors and councillors who behave badly will be gone for a year – the days of them acting with impunity are over.
“We want councils focussed on the long term and these changes will help them do exactly that.”
VLGA chief executive Kathryn Arndt said the business of local government was increasingly complex.
“Elected representatives at any level of government must act with integrity and show leadership in good governance,” Ms Arndt said.
“Having been elected by the local community it is vital that councillors serve in the interests of their community and make transparent and accountable decisions.”