The Local Government Bill 2019 is proposing to overhaul Greater Bendigo’s three councillor, three ward structure.
Multi-member wards will be eliminated in favour of single member wards in a proposal that the City of Greater Bendigo does not support.
The changes are being proposed by the state government as part of six new reforms added to the original Local Government Bill 2018, which lapsed in the Legislative Council when Parliament expired before the last state election.
Council has said that its current structure is working well for Bendigo and its councillors, creating a healthy balance of strategic decision making and local representation.
Shifting to a single member ward structure could allow a single councillor to exert their influence on others, while making it more difficult for a council to make decisions holistically for the benefit of the entire region, council said.
While the City of Greater Bendigo is in favour of the majority of the government’s six new reforms, it does not support the proposal of a community initiated commission of inquiry.
The Minister for Local Government would be required to appoint a Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the affairs of a council or councillor upon receipt of a petition signed by at least 25 per cent of the voting population of that council.
The inquiry is intended to produce community accountability for residents, but council believes it prejudices smaller regional councils with small voter bases.
Council is supportive of proposals to make the council electoral roll more closely aligned with the state electoral roll, the introduction of training for candidates and councillors and donation reform.
Local government reform began in 2015 and is the first comprehensive review of the sector in more than 25 years.
Since 1989, 210 councils have been incorporated into 79 larger organisations, delivering services valued at more than $7 billion annually, according to the Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek.
The revised Bill is expected to be presented to Parliament this year and once passed, the Act will be implemented over a two year period.