State floats mayoral vote

Ballarat Town Hall

The state government has proposed a series of reforms to the Local Government Act that could dramatically change Ballarat City Council.

The Directions for New Local Government Actdiscussion paperproposes direct mayoral elections for more councils, two-year mayoral terms and greater powers for the government to get rid of individual problem councillors.

Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins saidupdating the Act would make councils better.“This is about reforming local government so councils can serve their communities more effectively and efficiently,” she said.

“With the release of the directions paper today, the Andrews Labor Government is inviting a new round of consultation on a range of exciting and different ideas to improve local communities statewide.”

The report also included a proposal for greater transparency over CEO recruitment and pay levels.

City of Ballarat deputy mayor Belinda Coates said direct elections could give the mayor more authority in the communitybut might create an imbalance inside council.

“There are pros and cons with thedirectly elected mayor. On the positive side it does have what might be a strong mayor that has the endorsement of the community,” she said.

“The downside we’ve seen in other councils where there have beenchallenges in working positively with other councillors.”

The City of Greater Geelong and the City of Melbourne are the only Victorian councils with directly-elected mayors.

The entire Geelong council was sacked earlier this year for being dysfunctional. Centre to these claims was former mayor Darryn Lyons, who the state government reported was aggressive towards officers.

Cr Coates said the proposal to lengthen mayoral terms could provide more stability for council, and backed greater government powers to deal with problem councillors individually if it meant avoiding sacking whole chambers.

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