Wimmera council suspension powers unnecessary: Mayors

WIMMERA mayors believe new powers to suspend misbehaving councillors from meetings will be unnecessary in their municipalities.

The State Government is set to introduce legislation which would empower mayors to suspend a councillor from a meeting.

A councillor could be asked to leave if they failed to come to order.

After two warnings, mayors could show the troublemaker the door.

Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell said council meetings were for important discussion and decision-making and could not afford to be marred by inappropriate councillor behaviour as had been the case in some municipalities.

Rural Councils Victoria chairman and Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch said the suggested powers would serve a purpose.

“By a mayor having that power, it would save a full council being dismissed because of an individual situation,” he said.

At the moment, the Minister for Local Government has responsibility for diffusing a discordant council.

But Cr Gersch said the minister was unable to deal with individual councillors.

“I think it’s a move that would save a situation getting completely out of hand and a mayor, hopefully, would be able to deal with it,” he said.

“But it would be a rare situation nevertheless.”

He could not recall a time in his many years in local government when things had become so out of control that a councillor should have been suspended.

“The only thing that worries me would be if there was a clash of personalities between a mayor and a councillor, but there would be avenues of appeal,” Cr Gersch said.

“The mayor would want to have a very good reason to have to ask a councillor to leave.”

West Wimmera Mayor Ron Hawkins said he could not see any need for the legislation in his municipality.

“It won’t affect us because we’re a very well-behaved little group,” he said.

“I can understand that in some extreme situations it might be of help, but that has never arisen in all the years we’ve been going.”

Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper said it would be a power of last resort.

“It would be something I would be loath to use,” he said.

“We’re a lot closer in our community; we know each other, and we’re not a politically-based council.

“I imagine we’d be less prone to this sort of problem.”

He said there were situations when councillors agreed to disagree, but a circumstance warranting the new powers had not arisen during his 11 years on council.

Yarriambiack Mayor Andrew McLean said he imagined the power would be useful if a councillor was obstructing council processes.

“I think if the situation required it, to have that power would be good,” he said.

But he believed it was councils with strong political loyalties that would need the legislation most.

“I don’t think it’s so bad in the rural ones,” he said.

The idea arose from a State Government review of councillor conduct and governance.

The legislation will be introduced in State Parliament this year.

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