Parliament took only a day to sack Casey Council after a Government review reported Councillors had breached the local Government Act by holding discussions behind closed doors, voting en masse, failing to question officer reports, ignoring residents and pushing their own interests in Council.
How many Councils and Councillors across Victoria do exactly the same thing?
How long have residents and ratepayers been trying to tell the state government that Councillors’ behaviour fails to demonstrate the necessary care factor for residents?
And how long have we been ignored?
And why have the ratepayers of Casey Council now been forced to foot the bill and be disenfranchised because their staff and Councillors failed them?
Residents and ratepayers are innocent and yet they’re the only ones paying.
As well as paying for the Monitor, Laurinda Gardner, ratepayers have hired consultants brought in by the CEO to manage and counsel staff during the inquiry by the Independent Broadbased Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).
This is on top of shouldering the cost of the corrupt development decisions made which are now under scrutiny by IBAC.
It’s important to understand that the Monitor was only appointed by the Local Government Minister after IBAC began its inquiry into developer payments influencing Council decisions.
It is separate from IBAC’s review.
Ms Gardner’s report looks at how Council is functioning while IBAC continues and whether there are issues outside the IBAC inquiry that could impact the integrity of Council, including whether there have been breaches of the Local Government Act.
Essentially she found Council staff are functioning quite OK despite IBAC but there are significant problems with Councillors.
Ms Gardner found there’s a culture of bullying among Councillors, including intimidation, exclusion and strong personalities dominating groups and decisions.
She also found Councillors wouldn’t speak out because of the conflict it would cause.
Lazy Councillors were also an issue at Casey. Ms Gardner reviewed requests from residents to Councillors and found half the Councillors forwarded on fewer than 10 requests to staff over a period of six months.
In contrast, three councillors forwarded on more than 30 requests from their constituents.
She also criticised the conduct of Council meetings and rigour of decision-making.
“ Casey Councillors meet before the Council meeting and decide those business items they wish to ‘withdraw for discussion’ at the Council meeting (these are usually identified by an individual Councillor/s wanting to make a public comment on an item or have an alternative recommendation).
“This results in the majority of items not being discussed in the open Council meeting. Over the second half of 2019, 70% of officer reports were adopted ‘en bloc’.
“This practice appears to be a result of a general tendency to accept officers’ recommendations with little/or no questioning, lack of preparation by Councillors and a narrow focus on what interests individual Councillors.”
How many Councils do this?
My Council, Maribyrnong City Council always has a ‘meeting’ before the meeting. It’s obvious that Councillors have pre-discussed issues and worked out who is going to talk to which reports.
I actually thought the officers organised the Councillors to do this to speed up Council meetings.
Why does the Government only listen when an expensive public servant writes a report, which any ratepayer could write themselves if they could get access to the same information?
How do we get the Minister to listen to our concerns?
Perhaps a clause in the new Local Government Bill allowing residents to petition for an inquiry?
Oh wait…..there was going to be one and the Government took it out.
And not one MP has offered to put it back.
I will remember this when it's time to vote in 2022.