The deadline for submissions to the Local Government Act Review has now passed. Glen Eira has placed its effort on its website – after the fact of course and in direct contrast to other councils who sought a formal council endorsement (via resolution) on their submissions.

Councils generally have tended to advocate for the status quo, thereby maintaining their ‘independence’ and powers to do as they like. But as per usual, very few of these other councils are as conservative and anti change as Glen Eira. Here are some quotes from Glen Eira’s submission –

On mandatory versus normative legislation – We feel that the legislation should as a general principle provide consequences for noncompliance. But in this case, where it’s a matter of more general principles, there needs to be a reliance on common sense elements – much as it currently is.

On elections and set questions for candidates – We don’t agree with the suggestion that all candidates should answer standard questions, this should be left to the discretion of each candidate. If they don’t adequately communicate with voters they will not be successful.

On banning developer donations – We don’t agree that donations should be banned, nor that certain categories of donors should be banned. Banning categories of donors could unduly favour certain types of candidates over others. Conflict of interest provisions, which would prevent councillors from voting on anything that benefits major donors, should be sufficient to cover this.

Roles of councillors and Mayor – Clarifying the role of the Mayor is a good idea but we don’t agree that this should mirror either the NSW or QLD model  – AND

We don’t believe councillors should be full time. This would dilute the pool of those able to stand. Tiering for payments is unfair. Everyone should get the same pay – it’s the same amount of work regardless of the population of the Council.

The Mayor should have a casting vote to resolve deadlocks. It should be up to Councils to determine the extent of public participation in decision-making, not legislated, beyond what is currently contained in s223.

Local laws including meeting procedure should be left to each council to determine. Indexing fines is a good idea.

On reporting and ‘efficiency’ – We oppose the suggestion to require the publication of comparative data for all services – this would be a large impost on resources that should be directed to delivering services

On conflict of interest – Where councillors have a conflict, they should be entitled to be present for the debate, but not to vote. Often, as in the case of conflicting duties, the councillor excluded may have valuable insight into the subject at hand.

By way of contrast, here are some extracts from other councils –

BAYSIDE – The discussion paper raises the practice of councils appointment of special committees to undertake a number of non-statutory, operational roles for example managing sporting pavilion hire art gallery etc. It is suggested that this model should be explored further to enable community involvement in the management of local facilities.

STONNINGTON – There should be a uniform state-wide compulsory Code of Conduct for Councillors. There should be a uniform state-wide compulsory Code of Conduct for officers.

MELBOURNE – Regardless of role, it is essential that the governance requirements of the MAV are updated to reflect current public sector best practice and to tackle some current challenges. The MAV should be subject to the same openness and transparency requirements (including freedom of information) as other public bodies established under legislation. Areas that could be covered in a new Act include:

  • employment of senior officers
  • disclosure of senior officer remuneration in its annual reports
  • management and disclosure of conflicts of interest

BOROONDARA – to address the insufficiency of comparable information about candidates. The answers to these questions be made available to voters in the form of a candidate information template in the postal ballot packs provided by the VEC and this information be made available on the VEC website. While candidates would have the right to withhold answers to some or all of the prescribed questions, all their answers (including ‘no response’) would be made available to voters.

YARRA – The current minimum standards for public exhibition and submissions to Council Planning and budgeting processes act as a barrier to the development of more meaningful consultation methodologies. By effectively reducing the time available for other forms of consultation and participatory decision-making, the exhibition process is an inhibitor rather than facilitator of community engagement