|Description of this GroupDescription of this Group|
Scope of Group
This Group currently includes central government agencies concerned with local government including the Department of Local Government (VA 601), a number of committees concerned with aspects of the Local Government Act, statutory authorities responsible for local government employees' superannuation and certifying the competence of municipal auditors, clerks, engineers and electrical engineers, and the Victorian Grants Commission which is responsible for the annual distribution of grants to local government bodies. Local Councils are included in VRG 12 Municipalities.
Historically the Group has also included central government agencies responsible for town and country planning, valuation of land, regulation of weights and measures, and country roads.
Appointment of Minister and Local Government Functions
The Minister for Local Government, first appointed in 1958, is responsible for local government authorities and the regulation and monitoring of their activities under the Local Government Act 1958 (No.6299). Such responsibilities were inherited from the Commissioner (Minister) of Public Works (VRG 28). The Department of Local Government (VA 601) was established to assist the Minister in relation to:
approval of statutory procedures such as by-laws, submitted by municipalities
reviewing and amending legislation affecting local government
examination and review of municipal boundaries.
The Department provides consultancy and advisory services to local government bodies in relation to administrative, financial, electoral and legislative matters as well as entrepreneurial activities and joint ventures. It also has a monitoring role in relation to the operations of local government bodies and is empowered to conduct inquiries into complaints concerning local councils and officials.
Local Government Structures in Victoria
Local government constitutes a second sphere of government within Victoria. Victoria is divided into a number of municipalities which are variously constituted as shires, towns and cities under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1958 (No.6299). Local government authorities receive part of their revenue from State government grants and from a small reserved percentage of the annual revenue grants made to the State by the Federal Government. Their main source of income arises from their power to levy rates on the owners and occupiers of property.
Local government authorities are subject to the control of State Parliament through the Minister, and the Victorian State Government has the power to remove local councils and replace them with administrators. The franchise for election of local authorities was once based on land ownership and tenancy but has now been extended to all adult residents including some who are not eligible to vote in state and federal elections.
The powers and responsibilities of local authorities are established in the Local Government Act 1958 and in related legislation concerning such matters as building control, land ownership, health, town and country planning, land valuation and transport regulation. Local councils are empowered to make and enforce by-laws on a wide range of matters including road and traffic regulation, building construction, health, drainage, sanitation, environmental protection and planning. However these powers are shared with the State Government and there is currently disagreement between the State and some local authorities as to their respective powers in matters such as planning.
Local authorities have traditionally been responsible for road construction and maintenance, public health matters such as the inspection of premises, food and drug sampling and immunisation, and the provision of a wide range of social services including child day care, infant welfare, social welfare and the provision of domiciliary care services such as home help and meals to the elderly and others requiring assistance. For more information about the history of the development of local government and its functions, see VRG 12 Municipalities.
Historical Functional Responsibilities
In addition to functions which relate specifically to local government, the Minister for Local Government has at various times been responsible for:
the Town and Country Planning and Town and Country Planning (Metropolitan Area) Acts 1958-1973.
the Valuer General's Office 1960-1985
weights and measures 1965-1985
country roads 1970-1973.
Between 1958 and 1973 the Minister was responsible for overseeing the operations of the Town and Country Planning Board (VA 516) and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) in relation to its planning role for Melbourne and its metropolis. The portfolio continued to be involved in town planning matters between 1974 and 1976 during which time the Ministry of Planning (VA 600) operated as a sub-department of the Department of Local Government (VA 601), before becoming a department of state in its own right, although from 1974 the Ministry was responsible to the new Minister of Planning, who also inherited responsibility for the other planning authorities.
For information about the planning function, see VA 516 Town and Country Planning Board.
In 1960 and 1965 the Minister inherited responsibility from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) for the Valuer-General's Office and the regulation of weights and measures respectively. In 1984 the Minister of Consumer Affairs (VRG 63) became responsible for weights and measures, and in 1985 the Minister of Property and Services (VRG 69) for the Valuer-General's Office.
This function encompasses the control and development of uniform building regulations. From 1958 the Minister of Local Government also had responsibility for building control, mainly exercised through local councils. In 1985 this responsibility passed to the Minister of Planning and Environment (VRG 65).
In 1940 the first centrally controlled uniform building regulations were established under the Local Government Act 1928. Prior to this each municipality could make by-laws for itself governing building regulation. The 1940 legislation established the Building Regulations Commission which was to prepare and submit draft building regulations to the Minister for Public Works (VRG 18).
Under the Local Government Act 1958 the power to administer Uniform Building Regulations continue to be vested in municipalities (except where provided under Health Act, Sewerage Regulations and Water Supply Regulations which are subject to the approval of appropriate government authorities). The Uniform Building Regulations define detailed provisions for building operations and prescribe certain minimum standards which councils are bound to observe, however, councils have the power to insist on standard above those prescribed in the Regulations. Appeals against decisions by councils may be made to a panel of Referees.
Under the provisions of the Uniform Building Regulations, no building may be erected, constructed, placed in position, rebuilt, reconstructed, re-erected, replaced in position, altered, structurally altered, pulled down or removed unless it complies with the Local Government Act and Uniform Building Regulations and is approved by a council. A written permit must be obtained from the Council and a fee paid as prescribed. Responsibility for the actual administration of building regulation permits lies with each municipal council, see VRG 12 Municipalities.
From 1958 to 1973 the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) was also responsible to the Minister of Local Government for its involvement in the planning and construction of designated metropolitan bridges and highways. Previously the responsible Minister was the Minister of Public Works (VRG 28) and subsequently the Minister of Planning (VRG 65).
On 12 June 1970 the Minister of Local Government assumed responsibility for the functions of the Country Roads Board (VA 722) from the Minister of Public Works (VRG 28). This responsibility passed to the Minister of Transport (VRG 49) on 19 May 1973.
Cessation of Group
In January 1991 the remaining core local government responsibilities were transferred to the newly appointed Minister for Ethnic, Municipal and Community Affairs (VRG 99).
Location of Records
Significant records of the Local Government Department (VA 601) are held. For records of local councils see VRG 12 Municipalities.
See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.14.1 (Local Government Department), 3.14.2 (Municipal Surveyors Board), and 3.14.3 (weights and measures).
Minister for Local Government 1958-1991