Sunday, February 17, 2013

Council "reforms" proposed

THE Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government, Bryan Green MHA, today informed the media of his intention to introduce a Bill to State Parliament for "major local government reforms". I'm not aware of any information being provided to councillors at this stage.

I've tracked down a copy of Mr Green's media release on the premier's website and have posted it below. The proposals appear to include:
  • Four-year terms for mayors and deputy mayors
  • All-in, all-out council elections every four years
  • Opt-in compulsory voting
  • Ending "dual representation" (councillors also serving in parliament)
With the possible exception of the issue of "dual representation", I'm not aware of there being any groundswell of public opinion seeking these changes, which do not address the major problems facing local government; those (in my opinion) being funding and the powers of general managers. The government would appear to have decided to implement the recommendations of its own discussion paper from late last year.

My own term on council reaches its end later this year, but I will be interested to know what will happen to councillors who will be only part-way though their terms when the proposed reforms are due to be implemented.

I'll look forward to seeing something more detailed than the minister's media release (below).

Major Local Government Reforms

Sun 17 February 2013
Bryan Green
Minister for Local Government

The Deputy Premier, Bryan Green, today announced a package of major local government reforms that include new set terms for Mayors and full council elections.

Mr Green said Mayors and Deputy Mayors will face electors every four years together with all elected local government representatives.

"Rather than elections for half the council ever two years this will provide continuity for our leaders in local government and the communities they represent," Mr Green said.

"All-in, all-out council elections will enable councils to focus on delivering their policies over a fixed-term like all other levels of government.

"Rather than being in constant election mode, these changes will help ensure councils are even more accountable and responsive to their communities, while also letting them get on with the job that voters have elected them to do.

"Communities can then make decisions on whether their elected representatives have performed well over that period.

"These reforms are about ensuring our democracy is strong and works well by engaging and involving local communities.

Mr Green also announced the introduction of opt-in compulsory voting for councils and an end to dual representation.

"We want to encourage greater community participation in the election of councils which provide many services directly to their local communities.

Mr Green said preventing dual representation would ensure that elected representatives can focus all of their efforts on the interests of their local communities.

"This will relieve elected representatives of conflicting demands on their time."

Mr Green said public consultation on the reforms would begin immediately before legislation is introduced in April to allow the changes to be in place for local government elections later this year.

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