THE state government's proposed changes to the Local Government Act could affect the Wimmera's councils.
Proposed changes outlined in a new Local Government Bill include a reform to re-shape council wards to have just one elected councillor.
Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and Northern Grampians shire councils are all divided into wards, with most represented by more than one councillor.
Horsham and Ararat rural city councils, and West Wimmera Shire Council do not have wards.
Former Member for Lowan and former Horsham Mayor Hugh Delahunty said he opposed the proposed ward shake-up.
"We've got to be really careful about individual member wards because at the end of the day every councillor votes for the whole shire, not only their own ward," he said.
"I'm a supporter of unsubdivided councils so every councillor votes on the issues that affect every citizen in their council, and every community member has a right to vote for that person.
"I'd like to see more reasoning about why they're suggesting to go to single member wards."
Mr Delahunty was appointed an administrator to Central Goldfields Council after the council was dismissed in 2017.
The six reforms outlined by the Local Government Bill 2019 are:
- Simplify and clarify enrollments for voters in council elections;
- Introduce mandatory training for council election candidates and councillors;
- Capping electoral campaign donations and gifts;
- Allowing for the dismissal of a councillor after a community-initiated Commission of Inquiry;
- Defining standards of conduct to guide councillor behaviour and make dealing with councillor conduct issues faster and easier;
- Introducing a preference for single member wards to make councils more accountable
Mr Delahunty said he was also cautious about making councillor training compulsory.
"I'm a great believer in training, but to make it compulsory is not something that is done even at a state level. I would encourage any prospective councillor or sitting councillor to upgrade their skills," he said.
"They are running a large organisation and making a lot of decisions, so it's important they understand the role."
He said local government reforms should be ongoing.
"Some of these proposed changes are fine, and some of them will be difficult to implement. Reform should be constant and happen year-to-year," Mr Delahunty said.
"We've seen right across the state challenges to local government and the government has responded to that."
Horsham Mayor Mark Radford said the proposed changes wouldn't affect Horsham council.
"The distribution of wards in Horsham was reviewed a few years ago and the review found there was no value in having wards," he said.
"I think the compulsory training would be a great idea. Council is a big commitment that affects your whole life. When I first joined council 11 years ago there was a lot of training that was encouraged, but not compulsory."
Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek said the new laws would help councils be "more accountable, democratic and responsive".
"These changes boost consultation and engagement between councils, residents, ratepayers and businesses - as well as providing for ongoing accountability," he said.
"We need a modern Local Government Act that meets the changing needs and expectations of Victorians - these are important changes that will deliver better outcomes for local communities."
- The proposals are out for feedback until July 12. See www.localgovernment.vic.gov.au for full details.
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