By Luke Voogt
Geelong’s council has opposed new laws allowing the dismissal of councillors in community-initiated inquiries, calling for more time to consult ratepayers.
Council on Tuesday voted unanimously against the introduction of the Local Government Bill 2019 after councillor Kylie Grzybek raised an urgent business notice.
“The proposed changes are significant and we have not had the opportunity to properly consult our community to find out what they think of them,” she said.
State Government announced six proposed reforms on 17 June, allowing 30 days for councils to gather feedback and provide a submission.
If passed the bill would:
• simplify enrolments for voters in council elections,
• introduce mandatory training for election candidates and councillors,
• cap electoral campaign donations and gifts,
• allow the dismissal of a councillor after a community-initiated Commission of Inquiry,
• define conduct for councillor behaviour and make dealing with issues faster and easier, and
• introduce a preference for single member wards to make councils more accountable.
The proposed return to single-councillor wards was of “particular interest” given council had only just moved to multi-councillor wards on the recommendation of a 2015 Commission of Inquiry, Cr Grzybek said.
The reforms complement previous measures in State Government’s 2018 Local Government Bill for adoption this year, which council endorsed at this week’s meeting at Indented Head.
The measures require councils to involve the community in policy and align chief executive officer (CEO) pay to the rest of the public sector.
Council has asked CEO Martin Cutter request Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek extend consultation until at least 30 August for the 2019 bill.
Ratepayers Geelong believed the bill was “long overdue”, despite concerns and scepticism over some proposed reforms, the group’s spokesperson Andrew Senia said.
The reforms would help foster transparency in councils, he said.
But Cr Grzybek was “right” to request further consultation, Mr Senia said.
“Consultation includes Ratepayers Geelong Inc. and hopefully the Geelong Council with consult with us – something it has never done before.”
Consolation was “not just lip service” and the community needed sufficient time to respond, Mr Senia said.