Legal Insights

Upcoming Budgets and amended governance rules – are you compliant?

By Mark Hayes

• 21 April 2022 • 2 min read
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Lessons from Budget seasons past

Councils across the State will soon be asked to approve a Budget. The Budget will need to include information prescribed by Regulations, including information concerning rates and charges.

Approval of the Budget will not, without more, lead to rates and charges being declared. Put another way, a Resolution to approve the Budget is not the same as a Resolution declaring rates and charges. In fact, two Resolutions are necessary – one approving the Budget and the other declaring rates and charges. This much is clear from the Local Government Act 1989 and Local Government Act 2020. It is also clear from a relevantly recent decision of the Queensland Supreme Court[1], which dealt with equivalent provisions in Queensland legislation.

The Resolution approving the Budget should expressly reference any fees and charges which are being set. Those councils raising parking revenue will recall that, under section 87(4) of the Road Safety Act 1986, a 'resolution' is necessary to fix parking infringement penalties at higher levels than otherwise would be the case.

The Resolution declaring rates and charges should, in respect of differential rates, set out the details required by section 161(2) of the Local Government Act 1989. Similarly, it should specify the criteria relevant to different levels of a service rate or service charge (or any combined service rate and service charge).

A failure to differentiate between Resolutions or comply with relevant legislative requirements has the potential to create legal doubt over many elements of a council’s financial operations.

Amending governance rules

Royal Assent was recently given to the Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2022. It amends the Local Government Act 2020.

When, on 2 September, the amendments to the Local Government Act take effect, a council’s Governance Rules will need to make provision for:

  • holding meetings by electronic means; and
  • requesting and approving attendance at Council meetings by electronic means.

A new section 61(6) will provide that a Councillor may attend and be present at a Council meeting by electronic means of communication. Practically speaking, then, it will allow hybrid meetings to take place (with some Councillors being physically present in the Council Chamber and others being ‘in attendance’ and ‘present’ electronically).

Councils will need to ensure, by 2 September, their Governance Rules are compliant, and processes are in replace to enable hybrid meetings to be held.

[1] Linville Holdings Pty Ltd v Fraser Coast Regional Council [2017] QSC 252.

Looking for more information on the new requirements?

Contact our Victorian local government team

By Mark Hayes

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