Local Government Victoria’s discussion paper on Council Culture prepared by PWC is an ironic symbol of everything wrong with Local Government in Victoria.
The Discussion Paper proudly lists 12 groups who have provided invaluable input to the Paper because of their important roles in local government in Victoria. And not one of those contributors is a ratepayer group.
And there it is.
Ratepayers pay for everything. We’re on the receiving end of all the services. But as far as Local Government Minister Shaun Leane and his advisors and his Ministry are concerned, we are irrelevant. We can contribute nothing of value to improving local government at a state or council level.
All they want from us is money and lots of it.
Every one of the contributing organisations are paid for by taxes or rates and some, like the MAV, get funded by both rates and taxes.
Here’s the list.
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)
Victorian Electoral Commission
Local Government Inspectorate
Local Government Professionals
Australian Services Union (ASU)
Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA)
Gender Equality Advisory Committee (GEAC)
Councillor Conduct Panel
Chairs of the Panels of Administrators
CEOs of local councils
Local Government Mayoral Advisory Panel
Note the inclusion of the staff union and the union that covers Council Managers as well as the Mayors – all the groups that are responsible for the ‘culture’ in Councils.
But residents and ratepayers’ experience on the receiving end of Council services (or disservice) or being sneered at by Councillors as they pretend to answer questions during Council meetings apparently don’t provide valuable insights to PWC as it frames the review.
And of course none of us, in our local group meetings, have ever pondered what kind of policies, rules or changes would improve problem areas.
Because we’re only homeowners who pay outrageously high rates for insultingly few basic services.
We're not important public servants. We don’t have PhDs or MBAs or law degrees. We don't run businesses. We’re not teachers or coaches. We don’t know how to discipline, motivate or train or negotiate or mediate. We don't know how to investigate or ask questions or brainstorm solutions. We have nothing of value to help shape a review into local Council culture.
Because Councils and LGV only see our bank accounts, not our brains.
They’ll decide what what they want us to talk about – and then they’ll make sure we stick to the script, by providing an online form for submissions.
And the Discussion Paper is essentially 37 pages of stating the bleeding obvious.
For example – page 13
“There is a clear and growing problem of poor and unacceptable behaviour in certain sections of the local government sector, particularly amongst some Councillors. The increasing number and severity of instances of poor Councillor behaviour and conduct precedes the last Council elections in 2020….
“Recent instances of Councillor misconduct and other forms of poor behaviour have resulted in the dismissal of five Councils1 in the last Council term (2016 – 2020).”
How is it that all the expertise of Local Government Victoria over the past decade or so, hasn’t managed to identify the problems and work out solutions without an expensive consultant’s report?
After all MPs have just voted in a new Local Government Act 2020 (which failed to ban developer donations even though the IBAC investigation into Casey Council was well underway.)
We’ve yet to see if this Local Government review is a whitewash like the Review into Rate Capping and the Review into the Rating System (which both said everything was fine – because unaffordable and unnecessarily high household rate bills aren’t problematic for Councils or the state government.)
Read the report. Write a submission via the online form. We’ve paid for every seat at the table and we deserve to be heard.