Moving from a prescriptive to a principles-based approach
The Local Government Act 1989 and regulations prescribed many details about how councils could, amongst other things:
- make decisions
- conduct public consultation processes
- provide notices of meetings
- run meetings
- make information available to the public
Over time it has become apparent this level of prescription is unnecessary for modern councils. The Local Government Act 2020 is a principles-based Act, removing unnecessary regulatory and legislative prescription.
The 5 principles below have guided the development of the Local Government Act 2020:
This principle aims to ensure all Victorians have the opportunity to engage with their council on the future of their community. At a minimum, all councils must adopt and maintain a community engagement policy which must be used in the development of:
- planning and financial management
- community vision
- council plan
- financial plan
Read more about the community engagement principle here - Community Engagement (DOCX, 1491.13 KB)
The strategic planning principle works together with the community engagement principle to ensure that communities are involved in strategic planning and decision making.
Read more about the strategic planning principle here - Strategic Planning (DOCX, 1491.81 KB)
A significant percentage of a council’s revenue comes from rates, and the community has expectations that these rates will be used to deliver an array of services and infrastructure. It is vital that councils undertake responsible spending and investment that ensures financial, social and environmental sustainability.
The new Local Government Act 2020 is also intended to create a legislative environment that embraces innovation, modern business practices and microeconomic reform.
Read more about the financial management principle here - Financial Management (DOCX, 1490.59 KB)
Openness, accountability and honesty are essential to build high levels of accountability and trust amongst citizens and enable fully informed engagement in the democratic process.
Councils will be required to adopt and maintain a public transparency policy, which must be in line with underpinning principles in the Act.
Read more about the public transparency principle here - Public Transparency (DOCX, 1491.43 KB)
Regulations in the Local Government Act 2020
The Local Government Act 2020 (the Act) provides a number of heads of power to make regulations.
As a general principle, while the Act provides for a number of heads of power, it does not mean that there is an intention to make regulations with respect to each of those heads of power in the Act.
The current intention is to make the following regulations in a timeframe that supports implementation under the Act:
- Local Government (Electoral) Regulations
- City of Melbourne (Electoral) Regulations
- Local Government (Governance and Integrity) Regulations
- Local Government (Planning and Reporting) Regulations
- Library Purposes Trusts Regulations
- Local Government (Long Service Leave) Regulations
- Local Government (General Management) Regulations
- Local Government (Land Information) Regulations
Ministerial Good Practice Guidelines
The Act provides under section 87 for the Minister for Local Government to issue Ministerial Good Practice Guidelines (MGPGs). Compliance by a Council with a relevant good practice guideline can be used as evidence that the Council has complied with the corresponding requirement under the Act or the regulations. The first MGPG issued was in relation to councils holding virtual meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While MGPGs are not mandatory for councils (unlike regulations), in the spirit of having a principles-based Act, it is intended that MGPGs be developed where there is a clear need to support councils. View published MGPGs here.
Note: the Local Government Act 1989 is being progressively repealed.