Tougher penalties for councillor misconduct

Local Government Minister Melissa Horne will propose tougher sactions for misbehaving councillors.

Misbehaving councillors could be suspended or disqualified under proposed misconduct reforms announced by the State Government.

Local Government Minister Melissa Horne announced laws would be introduced in early 2024 to reform governance and integrity standards at local councils.

They include mandatory ongoing training for councillors – on top of the current induction training for new councillors.

There would also be a uniform councillor code of conduct with tougher sanctions for misconduct. This would replace each council’s self-created codes of conduct.

And strengthened powers for the Local Government Minister to suspend or disqualified individual councillors who “created a risk to health and safety or prevented the council from performing its function”.

The Chief Municipal Inspector will also have greater powers to issue infringement notices.

“Victorians rightly have high expectations of their local councillors and these changes will ensure residents can have confidence their best interests are being served,” Ms Horne said.

“Having a model code of conduct and mandatory training makes sense and extend reforms we introduced before the last council elections. They will help encourage quality candidates to come forward for the 2024 polls.”

The proposed reforms were driven by the Local Government Culture Project, with 140 submissions from residents, mayors, councillors, council staff and peak bodies.

It also follows nearly 30 councillors resigning since January, municipal monitors appointed at eight councils in 18 months and Moira Shire Council dismissed and replaced.

This year, IBAC’s Operation Sandon report into alleged corruption involving some City of Casey councillors and property developers had made 18 recommendations to reform council governance.

They included a uniform councillor code of conduct, mandatory councillor training on conflicts of interest, uniform governance rules and transparency policies and a review on penalties for councillor misconduct.