By Paul Hemsley
Local Government Association of Queensland President Margaret de Wit has welcomed the state government’s move to put councils back in charge of community planning by getting rid of a raft of state bureaucratic requirements.
The Queensland government this week passed changes to the Local Government Act and Brisbane City Council Act it claims will restore local government powers over community planning following demands for change from all 73 councils across the state.
“[The changes] remove the shackles of bureaucracy clamped on local councils by the previous state government and free up mayors, councillors and council administrations to be more responsive to what their communities are telling them they want to happen,” Ms de Wit said.
Under the amended legislation, community plans are no longer required by the state government and councils can now respond independently to community demands.
The community plans were deeply unpopular with councils who regarded them as costly, time consuming and a duplication of information already held in financial and corporate plans.
Councils also complained to Queensland Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli that conflict of interest provisions were too restrictive and prevented them from voting on issues related to local sporting and community groups if they were a member.
As a result of the legislative changes, annual community and financial plans have been cut and residential owners and occupants have become responsible for complying with local regulations. Councils can also hold referenda on issues of “significant local interest” and “rogue councilors” will be more heavily penalised under conflict of interest provisions.
Ms de Wit said councils had been waiting for these changes for a long time.
Mr Crisafulli said the previous Act made councils less responsive to their communities because they were too busy reporting to George Street in Brisbane.
“Whether it’s Brisbane City Council having to pay $5,000 for tabling the minutes in the wrong order, or regional mayors having to keep pointless logs of requests to their CEOs, we can do a lot better,” Mr Crisafulli said.
He said voters are “back in the driver’s seat with their councils, rather than bureaucrats and the state government”.
“Big or small, country or city, the message was the same: stop the stupid rules and regulations,” he said.
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