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Council warned off wards

12 Feb 2012

The Victorian Electoral Committee (VEC) has rejected the push for the return of a wards system for the City of Melbourne, after it released a preliminary report to the council for their future electoral structure.

Despite talk of a return to the system that would see Southbank gain specific councillors looking after our area, the VEC has suggested its preference is to maintain the current zoning, with additional councillors for the entire area.

The plan sees the undivided municipality represented by nine councillors plus the Lord Mayor and a Deputy Lord Mayor, two more than the current seven councillors and the two leaders.

The recommendation goes against the public submissions received by the VEC, with 17 submissions preferring a return to a wards system, against 4 who preferred the current boundaries.

Only one submission said the current number of councillors was satisfactory, with 16 wanting more and four not commenting either way.

One of the submissions against wards was from the Lord Mayor, Cr Robert Doyle, who, according to the report said: “a move to wards would not reflect the business structure of the municipality, nor the fact that almost 77 per cent of the rate base comes from the business community.”

The VEC agrees, with its report stating of its preferred unsubdivided option: “It takes into account the importance of the Melbourne City Council’s capital city functions, which are best suited to an unsubdivided structure, and is also able to absorb Melbourne’s uneven growth patterns.”

“Unlike other Victorian councils, Melbourne City Council has a statewide, a national and even an international dimension.”

Southbank Residents Group has stated its desire for a return to a subdivided council, saying it would be best for the interests of the local residents.

In its submission to the review former president Joe Bagnara said: “Under the current system residents and small businesses lack the proper representation when it comes to addressing local issues leaving resident associations to fill this gap by acting as de facto ward councillors.”

“There is some concern about the risk that the reversion to a ward system poses to the key role of the council in developing and implementing strategy to further Melbourne.”

“However, it is important that councillors keep a balance between their strategic role in the advancement of the capital city and serving its community,” the submission said.

The submission also stated the SRG’s support for an increased number of councillors.

The VEC will receive submissions on the preliminary report until Feburary 23. Those who make submissions will have the opportunity to speak at a public hearing, set to be held at Melbourne Town Hall at 5pm on February 29.

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