COUNCILLORS and mayors who seriously misbehave could be suspended for up to a year under new provisions in an amended Local Government Act introduced by the state government.
Victorian Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz introduced a bill into Parliament last Wednesday (23 May) to replace the Local Government Act 1989 in a move the Labor state government says “will modernise” councils across the state.
“Clearly defining” sexual harassment has been included in a revised councillors’ code of conduct included in the new Local Government Act.
The inclusion of the clause follows a high-profile investigation of former Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle amid complaints from female councillors about his conduct.
“We are bringing this Act into the 21st century – helping make councils more accountable and focused on the needs of their communities,” Ms Kairouz said.
“Mayors and councillors who behave badly will be gone for a year – the days of them acting with impunity are over.”
The Local Government Minister will also have “the power to suspend individual councillors who pose a significant threat to the governance of a council for up to a year”.
Councils will be required under the new Act to develop four-year budgets and the mayor of the day will provide an annual update on the budget plan to ratepayers each year.
“We want councils focused on the long-term and these changes will help them do exactly that,” Ms Kairouz said.
The updated Local Government Act for Victorian councils comes after three years of community consultation.