Tag Archives: Local Government

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

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Attention Update! ‘Hands on Head’ at Monash Council Meetings

Do you remember this post? Have you heard? Monash Council meetings just like a school class? | Empowering Monash & YOU

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Monash Council has introduced measures to improve the functioning of Council meetings. However many believe that Council meetings are now more like a school classroom. “If people behave like children and act in an unprofessional way, they can expect to be treated like children.  I make no apologies for that.  I was elected Mayor a few weeks ago to fix our dysfunctional meetings and I am determined to do that” stated Mayor Geoff Lake – Hands on heads improves Monash Council meeting. Councillors were required to place hands on their head if they wish to raise a point of order.

Now after spending $10,000 on his idea of a behaviour monitor and taping the meetings (which other Councillors were not allowed to assess) Mayor Geoff Lake wants to relax the  ‘Hands on head’ requirement!  

Snippets of Motion Document:

Cr Geoff Lake

“I proposed that these matters be raised by a councillor silently signalling their desire to raise a Point of Order or move a Procedural Motion. In the case of a Point of Order, this could be done by placing both hands on their head. In the case of a Procedural Motion, it was by placing one hand on their head. Although ‘novel’ and ridiculed by some, the adoption of these measures immediately improved the functioning of our meetings. Since the May meeting, we have barely had a single Point of Order and no disruptive Procedural Motion raised. Part of the reason for this improvement has been because the signalling process meant that it was immediately apparent what it is that a councillor is wishing to raise – i.e. a Point of Order or a Procedural Motion – and the mayor is placed in the position of being able to immediately and specifically engage the Councillor on the matter they are raising. These measures have succeeded in making Points of Order and Procedural Motions an exception rather than the norm they had previously become. As I said at the time of proposing these reforms, I am not concerned in the slightest if requiring someone to put their hands on their head does dis-incentivise a councillor from Council Meeting, 19 October 2016 Section 7.3 – Page 4 Mission Accomplished: time To Relax the ‘Hands On Heads’ Requirements moving these – as we were getting far too many of these interventions than was warranted or reasonable. Indeed we were getting more Points of Order and Procedural Motions raised at a single meeting than what was experienced across the entire previous four year Council term. I am pleased that since the May reforms, we are once again back to how things were in the previous term.” 

“I thank all councillors and attendees in the Public Gallery for contributing to the improvement of our meetings. Given this improvement being sustained over the past five months, I recommend to Council that we now relax the more contentious and onerous elements of the Supplementary Standing Orders (i.e. the ‘hands on head’ requirements) because the objectives of these measures have now been realised. With a new Council to take office from the November meeting onwards, it is appropriate in my view that it be given the chance to conduct its meetings in the professional and respectful way expected by our community without the need for these more extraordinary measures which were unfortunately necessary five months ago.” Source: Motion to relax ‘hands on head’ requirement.

But why is he adding the motion now? The requirement was not relaxed when community was  so against it?

Is it  really due to the excuse that behaviour has been improved or is it possible, due to the Monash Council elections and voting by the 21 October 2016? What do you think?  Leave your comments by clicking on the Leave a Comment button above.

 

Announcement! EM&U Founder Gayle Nicholas has stepped down from her role!

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I would like to announce that Gayle Nicholas who is the founder member of Empowering Monash and YOU has suspended her role with EM&U while standing for Council. Gayle and I established EM&U to provide information to community members and to give them the opportunity to have a say, such as community issues relating to Local Government.

Thank You Gayle Nicholas

I would like to thank Gayle for her outstanding role with EM&U and strongly advocating for community engagement with Monash Council.

Please keep in mind though EM&U will still be running as usual and team members or contributors will still be involved.  If you have any enquires please do not hesitate to contact us by email at eMonashu@gmail.com or through the ‘Contact Us‘ page.

EM&U’s role does not involve election campaigns so if you would like to contact Gayle Nicholas, details below.

Facebook Page Page: @Gayle4Monash 

 

Hariklia Nguyen – Co-founder of Empowering Monash and YOU (EM&U)

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?

Have you heard? Monash Council meetings just like a school class?

Monash Council Meetings Class Rules

Monash Council has introduced measures to improve the functioning of Council meetings. However many believe that Council meetings are now more like a school classroom. “If people behave like children and act in an unprofessional way, they can expect to be treated like children.  I make no apologies for that.  I was elected Mayor a few weeks ago to fix our dysfunctional meetings and I am determined to do that” stated Mayor Geoff Lake – Hands on heads improves Monash Council meeting.

Councillors are now required to place two hands on their head if they wish to raise a point of order. I wonder what will be next? A time-out corner?

Monash Council Meetings Naughty Corner

Now Mayor Geoff Lake wants an audit of councillor attendances at Council meetings. “This is because I have become alarmed at the attendance record of some councillors and, in particular, the approach that some councillors are taking in either providing no prior apology when they are absent from a Council meeting or providing unreasonable or insufficient notice of a planned extended absence” said Mayor Geoff Lake – Statement from Mayor Geoff Lake.

Even Monash Ratepayers believe that Monash Council is the School from Hell!  Monash Ratepayers Inc Article Snippet:

Monash Council: The School from Hell

Serial BullyingThe ridiculing and gagging standing order for controlling council meetings is not enough for Mayor Lake. He now wants roll calling to be his new black in councillors’ conduct management. Tracking councillors’ attendance is his next level up in bastardising the LG Act’s code of conduct guidelines, of course conveniently through exercising his Mayoralty position. Source:  https://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/monash-council-the-school-from-hell/

I wonder what else will be added to meetings? Perhaps we should provide some suggestions. Here are some!

  • Line up quietly to be marched into meeting room by Mayor Geoff Lake
  • Councillors who do not come to meetings prepared will have detention! 
  • Three strikes – Clean up duty!

Councillors Line Up

Instead of Monash Council spending $10,000 to monitor meetings, funds should be used to implement recording of meetings, to give more people access to meetings. It will also ensure a more transparent Council. Recording/Streaming Council Meetings Benefits Disabled Constituents.

What do community members think of these changes? Leave your comments by clicking on the Leave a Comment button above.

Have you seen these articles and comments? 

Monash councillors forced to put hands on head when they wish to speak during meetings

Monash Council Mayor Geoff Lake wants to track councillor attendance at meetings with an audit

3AW Breakfast interview – Monash Councillors have to place their hands on their head if they want to speak at council meetings

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

Residential Zoning Winners or Losers

Monash City Council has proposed changes to the city’s planning scheme.  The changes are formally known as Amendment C125.

Don’t assume your silence will be considered as support for the proposals!  Have your say and make sure your views are known – you can be sure others will and you might not like what they say!

AnotherBitesDust
Another One Bites the Dust!

During the October meeting, a motion to adopt the proposed changes to the planning scheme was deferred for further consultation.  You can read more about it on Council’s planning information page.

Prior to the October council meeting there were a number of community information sessions which were fairly well attended by opponents of the amendments.  Council also received a considerable number of submissions opposing the amendments.

When we attended some of the information sessions it was mentioned to us that either those who supported the amendments were very few and far between or they were not commenting because they assumed their silence would be taken as assent to the changes.  Officers at the information sessions and councillors at tonight’s meeting made the point very clearly that if you support the changes you must take advantage of this consultation period to say soyour silence will NOT be considered as a vote in favour of the amendment.  It goes without saying that people opposed to the amendment are not silent – there was a very vocal section of the public gallery present to object in October.

Changes proposed in C125 restrict the density of development within what are called “Neighbourhood Residential Zones”.  They also restrict the percentage of an allotment which can be built on, impose larger than before rear setbacks (you won’t be allowed to build right up to the back fence) and set minimum percentages of a site which must be water permeable (grassed, gardens etc.) rather than sealed to cause rainwater runoff.  See more, in great detail, at Council’s dedicated web site.

Consider whether the restrictions on development might be good or bad for you:

  • will they reduce your property value by preventing you subdividing to build multiple dwellings or will they boost your property value by ensuring your neighbour’s property doesn’t become an apartment block overlooking and overshadowing your back yard?
  • what will be the effect on parking in your street if the amendment goes through or is wound back?  Will you still be able to get in and out of your driveway?
  • will the canopy tree requirements provide you and your neighbourhood with a green, shady environment or will they just be a nuisance dropping leaves in your gutters?
  • will the permeability requirements stop you developing your outdoor living space as you choose or will they protect you from stormwater runoff from your uphill neighbours’ properties?  Can your street’s gutters and drains cope if everybody paves their whole block and directs rainwater to the street?
UpTheyGo
Hooray and Up She Rises!

I know that between my home in Glen Waverley and my office in Syndal, a 2.5km walk, I pass three sites on which one developer wishes to build a total of fifteen dwellings.  And those are only sites where planning permits are required to be advertised.  On the same route in the past three weeks at least six sites are being developed into McMansions and another three sites have been bulldozed from fence to fence.  I can repeat those statistics on each of a number of alternative routes to work.

 

 

Information Sessions on Glen Waverley Amendment C120

Monash Council is running Information Sessions on the Glen Waverley Activity Centre Structure Plan Amendment C120 at the following times:

Monday 6 July 2 pm – 4 pm

Monday 6 July 6 pm – 8 pm

Wednesday 22 July 6 pm – 8 pm

All sessions are at the Monash Civic Centre, 293 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley, 3150.

Note:  Other Information Sessions advertised are on Amendment C125 which covers residential zoning throughout Monash.

Submissions from the community about the proposed changes must be lodged before 31 August 2015.

People from the EM&U group currently preparing a submission opposing building 10+ storeys on Central Car Park plan to attend each session to find out more information and to put their case to Council staff. The group want green, open space for use by the people of Glen Waverley on this land.  If you would like to join work on this submission please email EMonashU@gmail.com

Related Links:

10 plus storeys on Central Car Park

Green Waverley:  do not build on Central Car Park

Green Waverley: research supports open space for diverse uses

Monash Council please may we have some green space

Essential Services Review into Rate Capping – view submissions online

You are now able to view some of the Submissions to the Essential Services Review into Rate Capping online.  The submissions will only be published with the permission of the author.

View the published submissions at:

http://www.esc.vic.gov.au/Local-government/Local-Government-Rates-Capping-Framework-Review/Consultation-Paper-Local-Government-rates-capping/Submissions

Some of the public submissions FOR rate capping directly refer to Monash Council.  Monash Council made a submission AGAINST rate capping.  Refer to the Meeting 28 April for details. Questions on this issue may be submitted to Public Question Time at the Meeting Tuesday 26 May

YOU have until 15 May 2015 to make a submission to localgovernment@esc.vic.gov.au.

Thank you to Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association Inc, McCrae Action Group and Monash Ratepayers Inc for providing the information below. Click on image below to enlarge.

Information from Mornington Ratepayers Association
Information from Mornington Ratepayers Association