Council reform plan welcomed

Moves designed to improve transparency of local government chief executives’ pay and performance, and increase collaboration between councils and communities, have been welcomed in Sunbury and the Macedon Ranges.

But a proposal to increase mayoral terms to two years and strengthen mayoral powers has led to calls to also increase pay in an effort to attract high-quality candidates.

Local Government Minister

has encouraged people to comment on a directions paper released as part of a wide-ranging review of the Local Government Act. She said the most comprehensive review of the act in 25 years would look at all objectives, roles and functions of councils.

Proposed measures include improving the transparency of the pay, recruitment, conditions and performance of council chief executives, and creating “citizens’ juries” to give residents greater input into the formation of council plans.

Other proposed reforms include:

•Providing the option of directly elected mayors;

•Beefing up the powers of the local government minister to deal with misbehaving councillors;

•Introducing electronic voting for the 2020 council elections;

•Phasing out the rights of non-resident property owners to vote in council elections; and

•Creating a single, consistent land valuation system for levying rates.

Both Macedon Ranges councillor Russell Mowatt and Sunbury Residents Association president Bernie O’Farrell said the idea of two-year mayoral terms was not without merit.

But they said it was a lot to ask of someone who might be reliant on other income.

“If someone’s working full-time, it’s going to be very hard,” Cr Mowatt said.

Mr O’Farrell said extending mayoral terms could weaken the field of candidates.

“You should have the best person for the job, but if they don’t have the ability to get leave from where they are, you are limiting the people you can draw upon,” he said.

While supporting the general concept of citizens’ juries, Mr O’Farrell and Cr Mowatt said they would only work if people with sufficient expertise were involved.