Countback to new councillor
29 countback of votes from last year’s local government elections will determine who replaces former Ararat mayor Paul Hooper.
The countback of Mr Hooper’s votes, which avoids a by-election, will be at Ararat and Grampians Visitor Information Centre at 10.30am.
Mr Hooper’s votes, based on voter preferences, will go to unsuccessful election candidates and the candidate with more than 50 percent of countback votes will join the council.
Mr Hooper resigned from the council after an Ararat statutory meeting where members elected Cr Glenda Mclean as the city’s new mayor, despite Cr Mclean being subject to code of conduct proceedings.
He and Cr Jo Armstrong walked out of the meeting. It remains unclear who will fill the vacancy. Council chief executive Allan Bawden said the council had written to inform the Local Government Department and the Victorian Electoral Commission of the circumstance on receiving Mr Hooper’s resignation.
“With a multi-member electorate like this, if there are council vacancies it goes back to countback. When a vacancy occurs, we advise the department and electoral commission,” he said.
In last year’s election Cr Armstrong and Mr Hooper were the first two councillors elected, having dominated first-preference votes with 24.83 percent and 17.74 percent of the overall votes respectively.
After the final counting of votes, including preferences, Cr Gwenda Allgood was third, with 876 first preferences; Glenda Mclean, fourth, 379; David Pettman, fifth, 484; Peter Beales, sixth, 406; and Darren Ford, seventh 374. Other candidates were Murray Woods 387, Frank Deutsch 282, Gary Hull 223, Fay Hull 222, Bill Braithwaite 169, and Bernadette Atkinson 143.
The Ararat council has been embroiled in controversy and internal division since making an unsuccessful attempt to abandon a farmland rate differential system earlier this year.
The issue eventually led to a Commission of Inquiry and the State Government directing the council to revert back to a 2016 rating plan.
One of the recommendations through the inquiry was that the council establish a Rating Strategy Advisory Group.
Mr Bawden said the council had started advertising for people to sit on the new advisory group.
“We’re calling on people with an interest who might be willing to commit themselves to a few months,” he said.
“The hope is that when the council looks at its budget in May, there will be well developed ideas in place.
“Hopefully the council will then have some comfort in being able to adopt a strategy.”
The group will meet regularly for six months and have support from a rates expert, an independent chair, Mr Bawden and municipal monitor Janet Dore.
The council hopes a ‘citizens jury’ activity to support the group will test ideas.
People can apply to join the committee by calling corporate support manager Alistair Rowe on 5355 0203 or emailing [email protected]
They can also download an information kit and expression of interest form from website www. ararat.vic.gov.au.
• For more on the meeting, see page 12