Category Archives: Local Government Reform Strategy

Hon. Jeanette Powell MLA announced a Reform Agenda in 2013. This Agenda is focussed on making the local government sector more efficient and productive.

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

What have they done to my rates this time?

Have you got your rates notice?

We’d love to know where the winners and losers are in Monash Rates Roulette.  Can you help by completing the survey here please?

Once we’ve collected your responses we’ll publish the results.  That information will give us data to help the discussion about how we might suggest a fairer rating scheme.  (Watch this space!)

Related: Look What They’ve Done to My Rates, Ma!

 

Monash Council Meeting Agenda! Hot Issues – What to look for?

Monash Council Meeting

The Next City of  Monash Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday 30 August 2016 from 7.00pm. You will need to submit your questions by noon  today (Monday 29 August).

Hot issues to pay extra attention too!

Hot issues Empowering Monash and You

Development: Five residential apartment towers 6-10 storeys in height and 17 double-storey townhouses

79 objections were submitted by public members: “Key issues raised within objections relate to neighbourhood character, visual bulk, overshadowing, design detail, compliance with residential policy, car parking provision, increased traffic, overlooking and residential amenity.” Source – Monash Council Agenda, 30 August 2016.

The Council has recommended to refuse the proposal!

Monash Community Grants Program:  Report relating to the 2017/18  Grants Program (MCGP) and assessments of applications.

Due to the Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement, funding will not be provided to applicants or community groups who meet at venues that have Electronic Gaming Machines. Already two organisations will be affected! There were some objections to this alteration .  

Links relating to this issue and comments: Dealing Monash Ratepayers a Dodgy Hand

Important Update! Some Councillors not signing code of conduct spared due to stuff ups!

Some Councils stuffed up!

Recently there was an issue with a Monash Councillor (Theo Zographos – Councillor in firing line for not signing code of conduct) for not signing the code of conduct in front of the CEO, but now the Government stated there might have been some stuff ups! 

“Councillors who failed to properly sign a new code of conduct have been spared disqualification and will be able to comply by February. Acting Local Government Minister Richard Wynne said there had been a failure of administrative duties by councils and incompetence in some cases.” Source: The Age

The local Government Minister Richard Wynne mentioned that he received letters from council’s admitting they had made a mistake.

Apparently due to the errors, 107 councillors from 13 different councils faced suspension!

Articles to more info in relation to this debacle!

The Age – ‘They stuffed up’: sacked councils to get last-minute

The Age Victoria – More than 100 Victorian councillors face disqualification

ABC News – Local councils ‘failed to comply’ with code of conduct law changes, Victorian Government says

What do members of the community think of this debacle?

Have your say! – The Local Government Act Review Paper

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The government is reviewing the Local Government Act and proposing to make changes that will make Councils more efficient, transparent and accountable, as well as enhancing community participation.

Here are some of the key new reforms proposed:

  • A stronger role for mayors to lead councils
  • Greater consistency in council structures (wards) to make elections fairer
  • Simpler electoral rolls and voting rules
  • Community engagement
  • Accountable and high performing councils
  • More autonomy for councils to cut unnecessary red-tape
  • A consistent, modern rating system

Have a say!

Community members have an opportunity to provide feedback relating to the Local Government Act Review Directions Paper or proposed changes. Feedback can be provided by making  a submission or viewing the summary ‘At a Glance’ and completing  a quick poll.

Link to The Local Government Act Review Directions Paper website: Act for the Future – Directions for a new Local Government Act.

What do you think of your Council? Do you think changes need to be made?

New website! Know Your Council!

The website was developed by Local Government Victoria (LGV) for community to have access to information on how local councils are performing and updates relating to local government.

It is important that there is transparency of councils. This website can ensure community have access to information and in a method that is easy to understand.

Do you want to know how Monash Council performed? Please visit the Know Your Council website!

Visit site – Know Your Council

Give your feedback on the Local Government Electoral Review Panel recommendations!

Give your feedback on the Local Government Electoral Review Panel recommendations!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Government Electoral Review Panel has completed a  review of Victoria’s local government electoral system. The review was on 4 main topics:

  1. Electoral process
  2. Participation
  3. Integrity
  4. Electoral representation

The panel made 55 recommendations for reform. The Victorian Government is now seeking feedback on these recommendations. You can download feedback form by clicking on link provided:

http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/local-government/strengthening-councils/local-government-electoral-review/government-consultation

 Feedback closes on Monday 3 November 2014.

Monash Council votes TONIGHT on Glen Waverley Activity Centre Plan

The 15 storey tower proposed in O’Sullivan Road opposite The Glen is only one issue for the people of Monash.  The Glen Waverley Activity Centre Plan proposed high rise throughout the central Glen Waverley area.  There are indications such development will move along the railway line to surround all areas near railway stations.  From what I hear this is NOT what residents want.

One of the issues is the feeling of powerlessness in the community.  People feel their say doesn’t matter (and past performance of the Council reinforces this view).  Stand up and have your say!  What future development do you want in Monash?

Visit the following Leader link to have your say:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/glen-waverley-tower-plan-raises-alarm-over-amenity-impact/story-fngnvlxu-1227075124741

Come to the Council meeting at Monash Civic Centre, 297 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley TONIGHT 7.30

Email, write, ring Councillors to let them know you vote for them and you don’t like what is happening.

Also on tonight’s agenda is the Council’s feedback on the Electoral Review.  This is the people’s opportunity to enable fair electoral practices in local government elections.  Should Council candidates have to declare the political party they belong to?  My vote is YES, they most definitely should.  Read the agenda item 7.2 for more information: http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/reports/30sep2014.htm

What property development do Monash residents want?
What property development do the residents of Monash want?

Related Post:

Glen Waverley:  up she rises!

Related Link:

Local Government Electoral Review

Would this really rebuild the community’s trust?

On Wednesday 2 of April 2014 the Victorian Government introduced a new legislation – Local Government Amendment (Governance and Conduct) Bill 2. The bill is reviewed and considered before it can become Law.

It is claimed these reforms will ensure good conduct by Councillors as well as ensuring councils fulfil their responsibilities appropriately.         “Victorians should know that they can trust their elected council representatives and feel confident there are effective measures in place to deal appropriately and quickly with any instance of poor conduct and performance,” Mr Bull said – Minister for Local Government.

How would this affect your Local Council? Here are some changes that will impact Councils:

  • The Mayor will need to provide guidance and ensure good working relations among Councillors and is the main spokesperson for the council
  • Councils will have to introduce a CEO Employment matters committee which will provide advice on all contractual matters relating to the CEO’s employment
  • Councillor conduct panels members will be chosen from a list of people appointed by the Minister for Local Government
  • The Act will introduce new criminal offences for unlawful direction of council staff and release of confidential information
  • The  chairperson of the  audit committee can only be a person who is not a Councillor or a member of staff
  • Councillors will not be able to nominate council funds to a person, organisation or to a fund
  • The oath of office will include the promise that Councillors will need to follow the conduct principles  and the chairperson will need to recite the oath at the start of each council meeting
  • After an election, an elected Councillor will be required to complete a councillor induction program
EM&U encourages citizens to make their own observations of the conduct of Monash Council. Monthly meetings may be viewed from the public gallery (upstairs in the Council building 293 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley 3150). The next meeting is on Tuesday 29 April 7.30 pm. EM&U members regularly attend these meetings.
Monash Ratepayers Inc (MRI) has published feedback on meetings. See: https://monashandyou.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/councillors-failed-report-card/

For more info on this new legislation please clink on links provided:

http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/images/140402_Bull_-_Conduct_reforms_to_rebuild_community_trust.pdf

http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/223838/Governance-and-Conduct-Bill-brochure.pdf

Change of Local Govt MP – where to contact…

Apparently the Hon Tim Bull MP has taken over from Jeanette Powell MP as Minister for Local Government: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/from-the-minister-for-local-government.html

Thank you to Jeanette Powell MP for the work she did on Local Government Reform.

Contact details for The Hon Tim Bull MP