Earlier this year, the Victorian Government completed a review of the legislation that governs local government across the state and adopted the Local Government Act 2020 – the first full review of this legislation in more than thirty years.
This new legislation is being implemented progressively. One of the early requirements is that each council adopt, for the first time, a set of Governance Rules.
What are the Governance Rules?
The Governance Rules guide a council in:
- the way it makes its decisions
- the way its Council Meetings operate
- how it manages conflicts of interest
- the special arrangements that are put in place during the caretaker period in the lead-up to each election.
The Governance Rules contain the following sections:
- Council Meeting rules
- Committee rules
- Conflicts of Interest
- Confidential Information
- Election Period Policy.
What is changing?
Not much actually. In developing the Governance Rules, we’ve taken the best bits of what we do now, and examined best practice across the sector.
We've designed a set of rules that represents the highest standards of transparent governance, and builds on Yarra’s long history of closely involving the community in our decision-making.
There’s a few key changes we’re making:
- The right to make a submission on every matter that comes to a Council Meeting will now be enshrined in our rules for the first time. This has been a long-standing feature of our meetings, but was never formally part of our meeting procedures.
- It will no longer be possible to elect a Mayor or Deputy Mayor by ‘pulling a name from a hat’ in the event of a tie. Our rules now require that both roles be elected by an absolute majority – no matter how long it takes.
- We’re requiring that notices of meetings, agendas and minutes all have to be published on our website. We’ve already been doing that for a long time, but it hasn’t been required by our rules until now.
- We’re removing the requirement to use gender specific pronouns when addressing the Mayor and staff in meetings.
What is staying the same?
- We will continue to live stream our Council Meetings, and publish recordings on our website.
- We will conduct all of our voting by show of hands – so you can see exactly who voted for each motion.
- We will retain Public Question Time at every ordinary Council Meeting.
- We will continue to make sure all conflicts of interest are openly and transparently declared and recorded.
What is happening to the Local Laws?
Council Meetings currently operate under rules set out in our Meeting Procedures Local Law.
These rules are not being repealed (because they give us some important legal powers for Council to use its common seal), but they are inoperative as far as matters in the Governance Rules are concerned. In effect, when it comes to Council Meetings, the Meeting Procedures Local Law will cease to exist.
There are a number of documents you can read to give you more information on this project, most significantly the proposed Governance Rules themselves.
If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, you can read the Council Meeting Operations Policy and the Local Government Act 2020.
Of course, if you have a really specific question, you can contact us directly, and we’ll do what we can to help. Email Rhys Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 9205 5555 if you prefer.