Stronger councillor conduct standards welcome

Minister Natalie Hutchins' proposed changes to Victoria's Local Government Act are most welcome. 

The Minister has announced that the Local Government (Improved Governance) Bill 2015 will be tabled in Parliament next month to strengthen councillor conduct standards and provide mechanisms for bad behaviour by councillors to be dealt with more swiftly and effectively. 

The 2013 Wangaratta Council crisis showed us just how unworkable the existing legislation is. It's been reported that this new legislation will provide a mechanism for six-month suspensions for Councillors who step out of line. However from what I've read in the papers and online I'm not sure if the legislation allows for the actual removal of individual councillors? 

Currently the Local Government Act doesn't allow individual Councillors to be stood down for inappropriate behaviour, instead the entire Council has to be removed and replaced by administrators - as happened at Wangaratta.

As one of those Wangaratta councillors removed from elected office as a result of the legislation's failings, I welcome these amendments and look forward to seeing the detail. 

The good news is that mechanisms will soon be in place to limit unruly behaviour thus ensuring our community doesn't relive the 2013 drama after next year's Council elections. 

The government's reforms will include requiring councillors to agree to codes of conduct before taking office, making it mandatory for councils to establish procedures to deal with alleged breaches and enabling conduct panels to suspend councillors for six months in instances of serious misconduct. 

These changes precede a full review of the existing Local Government Act which is also underway.

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