A PROPOSED reform to the way Victorians councils are structured could leave them worse off, the City of Greater Bendigo believes.
The criticism forms part of a drafted response to the state government's proposed reforms to local government, which councillors will be asked to consider during Wednesday's meeting.
The state government has suggested Victorian councils be comprised of single member wards wherever possible.
City staffers have opposed the idea, citing concerns that "sweeping changes to the structure of council electorates is not the appropriate means" to ensure councillors are accountable to their communities.
"In fact, council considers that the proposed electoral structure reforms could result in a number of adverse consequences that would serve to undermine the goal of greater accountability," the draft submission reads.
It lists a number of disadvantages to the model, concluding that it would not necessarily result in the best decision-making for municipalities.
Greater Bendigo council consists of three wards, each of which is represented by three councillors.
The council would have to revert back to a single member model if the state government's proposal was successful.
The city's staffers believe the existing structural model is working well.
"For local government areas experiencing significant growth, such as Bendigo, multi-member wards allow a council to be flexible enough to accommodate that growing population without frequently needing to review its ward boundaries," the draft submission says.
"Whilst a consistent electoral structure for local government is worth investigating, council considers that ensuring representation is genuinely local and accountable means allowing each council to determine the electoral structure that works for it and its community."
City staffers also opposed a proposal for a community-initiated commission of inquiry.
The state government suggests a commissioner be appointed to conduct an inquiry into the affairs of a council or councillor upon receipt of a petition signed by at least a quarter of the council's voting population.
"The proposed reforms are vague and raise a number of questions and concerns for council," the draft submission reads.
"One obvious issue with the proposal is that it unfairly prejudices smaller regional councils with correspondingly small voter bases."
A petition would be able to be successfully lodged in a shire the size of Loddon with about 1000 signatures, but require about 75,000 signatures in a city the size of Casey, in Melbourne.
INFOGRAPHIC: Example of successful petition sizes
"The result would be an inequitable system where small councils are left vulnerable and the petition process is effectively tokenistic for populations of large councils," Greater Bendigo's draft submission reads.
It also raised questions about how the proposal would deal with applications that were "clearly vexatious or frivolous", and how signatories to the petition would be verified.
"Council considers that, as with state and federal politics, the opportunity for the community to judge the performance of its elected officials is, and should remain, at an election," the draft submission reads.
"Further, there are already multiple agencies established in the Victorian integrity framework that are well-placed to independently assess council and councillor conduct."
DOCUMENT: July meeting agenda
The draft submission contains responses to six proposed reforms. The city generally supported all of the proposed reforms other than those aforementioned.
They included making council rolls more closely aligned with the state electoral roll, introducing mandatory training for election candidates and for councillor induction training, and electoral campaign donation reforms.
The city was also supportive of a proposal to introduce mandatory standards of conduct and an arbitration process, with the arbiter able to impose sanctions.
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