Shock exit: Local government champion Bill McArthur
One of Victoria’s longest serving councillors and the former president of the state’s peak body for councils has launched a broadside at Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews after his shock defeat at last week’s local council elections.
Bill Mr McArthur spent 23 years as a Golden Plains councillor and almost eight years as President of Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) but failed to win a seat on council this time around.
Mr McArthur, who has long been a champion for rural Victorian councils, said the Premier had dealt harshly with local councils by reinstating rate capping and continuing to shift the costs of providing services onto local government, casting councils as the villains when they could no longer continue to provide them.
He said that withdrawing the Country Roads and Bridges Program, which gave smaller rural councils $1 million a year to maintain roads, had been a huge blow as had stopping small grants to small rural councils that had been used to fund community infrastructure.
“They have made it very difficult because rural councils don’t have alternative ways of raising revenue,” Mr McArthur said. “They don’t have parking or opportunities for business units like the big metros do.”
He said he had not even met Mr Andrews since he was elected Premier in November 2014.
“I don’t believe he made the effort to engage with local government and he is the only Premier in my time that didn’t. I never had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with him.”
But Mr McArthur would not be drawn further, “I prefer go out with a bit of dignity. We should let sleeping dogs lie.”
Seventy-eight of the state’s 79 councils went to the polls last weekend, with the exception of Geelong, which is under administration after an Office of Local Government investigation found widespread bullying and intimidation.
- Election of anti-mosque campaigner Julie Hoskins in Greater Bendigo
- Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton elected in Moreland
- Number of female councillors up by 4 per cent on 2012 elections. Fifteen councils now have a female majority
- Greens do well in inner Melbourne councils such as Yarra, Port Phillip and Moreland but not so well elsewhere
- Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle wins a record third term
- Brimbank council runs elections after an eight-year hiatus following council sacking amid allegations of councillor corruption and misconduct
- Two members of the sacked Brimbank Council re-elected: Margaret Guidice and Sam David.
- Tony Briffa, reportedly the world’s first intersex mayor, re-elected to Hobsons Bay Council after resigning midterm in 2014
- Shock exit of MAV President Bill McArthur
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Chief Executive Officer, Rob Spence said he was pleased that there had been a four per cent increase in women councillors. He said that 38 per cent, or 243 councillors, were women.
“This is a great achievement. While we’ve got a way to go to reach equal gender representation around the councillor table, this is a step in the right direction,” he said.
“It’s also pleasing to see some fresh faces joining council ranks with 323 new councillors elected, joining 314 re-elected councillors. A total of 152 incumbent councillors were defeated and 138 councillors retired.”
He said that all candidates should be proud of their efforts, even if they did not get elected.
“It takes a lot of courage to put your hand up for a spot on council and it is highly competitive.”
He also paid tribute to outgoing MAV President Mr McArthur, calling him a “dedicated and passionate councillor” and an effective MAV President.
“Bill leaves a long legacy of accomplishments achieved during his time as MAV President. This includes the landmark signing of the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement, the establishment of MAV Procurement and Australia’s first municipal bonds, plus representing the sector at the Bushfires Royal Commission.
“Under Bill’s leadership significant funding wins for the sector were also achieved including restoration of 50:50 funding partnerships for maternal and child health services, and a fairer planning fees regime.”
He said that Mr McArthur had help secure other notable wins for local government, including doubling Roads to Recovery funding from the Commonwealth over several years and working at the national level as Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association.
Meanwhile, the Herald Sun reported that there had been 250 complaints about the Victorian elections, most of them being objections to electoral material but one concerning bribery.
Former Whittlesea Mayor John Fry was dramatically arrested in the lead-up to the elections, accused of defacing election posters in Bundoora. Mr Fry, who had complained about the election material of one of his rivals, Norm Kelly, was not re-elected.
Government News contacted the Victorian Electoral Commission and was told that the number and nature of complaints could not yet been confirmed. The spokesperson said they would be referred for investigation to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.
- A total of 2135 candidates nominated for 637 vacancies across 78 municipalities (Geelong will not have an election until 2017)
- 314 of 637 vacancies were filled by incumbent councillors, 323 were new councillors and 152 contesting councillors were defeated
- 243 or 38.1 per cent of all councillors elected are women, up from 34 per cent in 2012
- All 78 councils have women councillors
- Fifteen councils have a majority of women councillors: Brimbank (7/11), Corangamite (5/7), Darebin (6/9), Greater Bendigo (5/9), Indigo (4/7), Macedon Ranges (5/9), Manningham (5/9), Maribyrnong (5/7), Melton (5/9), Moonee Valley (5/9), Murrindindi (5/7), Stonnington (5/9), Surf Coast (5/9), Whitehorse (6/10), Yarra (5/9).
- 47 incumbent mayors were returned, 15 mayors retired, and 14 contesting mayors were defeated.
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