Tag Archives: Transparency

Monash Council making decision without consulting residents

Decision making at Monash Council does not appear to have changed.  Residents using Gardiners Reserve indicate they have had no say in the choice of pitch to be laid, fencing or lighting.  EM&U have been asking for several years for Council to consult with stakeholders at the beginning of the decision making process.  Stakeholder representatives should be involved in the process from the very beginning and have a role throughout the whole process. Instead we see the usual token effort to involve stakeholders at the last stages.

It is hard to understand how Council has decided on a synthetic pitch yet has no information to pass to residents.  On what basis did Council make the decision for a synthetic pitch?  Has a procurement contract been signed?  If so, with whom?  During the 2016 election the community asked for transperancy.  The Department of Local Government has called for transperancy.  Monash Ratepayers has called for transperancy. Yet the decision about pitch at Gardeners Reserve appears to be far from transparent.

When will the ‘Have Your Say’ section on the Monash Council web site have the option for community members to add items they would like to have a say about?

Below: Letter from resident to EM&U 28 Feb 2017

Dear Empowering Monash and You,

I am writing to you as a resident of Monash with regards to Council’s proposal for a Synthetic pitch at Gardiners Reserve, Sixth Avenue, Burwood.

This major decision seems to have already been made in regards to the type of pitch surface, fencing and lighting without community consultation or understanding the community’s needs. Council are proceeding with a design for an estimated project cost of $2.9 million which will be decided on in the 2017/18 budget.

As residents, we were first informed by reading an article in the Monash Leader in January that mentioned the synthetic pitch, and not by council itself. We rang immediately and within a few days received a letter in the mail, with promise of a consultation in February.

We have since received a second letter inviting us to an informal consultation at Gardiners Reserve on the evening of March 9, with an opportunity to:

– hear about what is being proposed
– understand what the scope of works would be, if Council decides to fund the proposal in its 2017/18 budget
– understand why Gardiners Reserve has been chosen for the proposed synthetic pitch; and
– ask any questions we may have about e project and discuss any concerns.

We are very concerned that the decision to proceed with a synthetic pitch over alternative treatments seems to have already been made, and that we are being consulted very late in the process and are not being given the opportunity to have input into any decisions which will directly affect us.

Despite our requests for information on the decision process so far from Council officers, Councillors and the CEO we have not received any information, and are being told that we have to wait for the consultation to take place.

Worryingly, the consultation on 9 March is not listed in the ‘have your say’ page on Council’s website, and we fear that it may be limited to only one or two streets despite the wider community using this open space.

We hope that you will be able to offer us your valuable advice and support in this matter.

Sincerely,
[name and contact details supplied]

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

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.

Council meeting 24 June: 2014 Council Performance Results lower

Are you happy with the performance of Monash Council? They meet this evening (24 June) at the Council Offices 293 Springvale Road Glen Waverley. By sitting in the Public Gallery during monthly meetings you can make up your own mind about how our Council performs. EM&U members will be there. Come along and make up your own mind as to how democratic Council processes are. Ask yourself how effective Public Question is, whether all Councillors get equal speaking time, whether party politics is crossing the line into local government and so on.

The post below was written by Monash Ratepayers Inc. It is worth reading!

Monash Ratepayers Inc.

Poor MayoraltyThe 2014 performance result of Council is just released – click here for details. Under bad leaders, the Council has gone backwards in its performance during the last 3 years, especially 2014. In any year, the leadership of Councillors, especially the Mayor, is the primary cause of Council’s poor performance. As part of a bad leadership culture, it is easier to blame it on others, which still goes on  – see Council official response to explaining the bad results:

poor-leadershipBad excuseThe aged care matter only highlighted what are already growing governance issues in Council’s decision making. If not for the high impact protests, people think that the outcome would be worst – the community pressure at least made Councillors choose a buyer that is non for profit and not for the highest bidder, as originally would have happened as money was the reason for selling. The experience for the first Clarinda…

View original post 374 more words

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

The Art Of Dodging Public Questions – Monash Council

“This poster says a lot about Monash Council’s ongoing lack of stakeholder engagement and transparency, for example their decision making process for the sale of the aged care residences Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens.”

"This poster says a lot about Monash Council's ongoing lack of  stakeholder engagement and transparency, for example their decision making process for the sale of the aged care residences Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens.
“This poster says a lot about Monash Council’s ongoing lack of stakeholder engagement and transparency, for example their decision making process for the sale of the aged care residences Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens.