Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Community Forum July 09 - overview

Improving Community Engagement and Consultation in Glen Eira

On Monday night at the Boyd Room in Carnegie Library a very successful community meeting was held with 33 participants attending.

Whilst problems in our municipality on this issue were certainly acknowledged the theme for the night was on how to identify effective solutions on which our council can improve its performance and embrace best practises.
A full summary of the discussion will be posted next week detailing these problems and solutions.

Below is a brief summary of the opening address I provided outlining my thoughts-

The expertise, opinions and experiences of the community in GE are not fully valued and appreciated.
There is a culture in the Council/Admin that says 'we know best' and those whose views differ are too easily dismisssed as a 'noisy minority' and are unworthy of consideration.

The Council seems to be run more like a company than a local governing body and that widespread cultural change will probably only happen with personal changes.
However there is some scope for positive progress in this term as I feel that the current council is more progressive than previously.

Community representatives on advisory committees should be the norm not the exception.
The council meeting processes should be changed-
to allow the gallery to address the council
councillors to have greater input into public questions
The local law draft needs to be closely looked at especially where it could constrict public engagement in the meeting process.

I also mentioned the chamber should be relocated to a far more modern room that is more condusive to community interaction!

The council website can be further improved and enhanced .

I feel these forums will become increasingly important in helping to improve and reform our council and have been heartened by the feedback so far, only 14 to go!
The next forum will be held in late September with EARLY CHILDHOOD SERVICES IN GLEN EIRA being the issue to be canvassed.

Special thanks to Rose for facilitating and for all those who attended.


  1. As an attendee at your forum Neil, I would like to endorse these comments. It was incredibly informative to learn that across all issues, many people felt 'disengaged' from this council. I hope that with community support, you and your fellow councillors will see the need for dramatic cultural and personnel change in an administration that has been far too long at the helm.

  2. I have copied the following extract from the 2008 discussion paper (pages 24-5) published by the Victorian Government. This is cited because of its importance to the processes (or lack thereof) undertaken by Glen Eira in its formation of the draft Local Law.

    "There are a number of reasons why an effective consultation policy is important in the context of the local law making process. These include:-

    · General democratic principles that the community the local law is designed to protect or influence has an opportunity to influence the decision to make that local law and the form the law takes;
    · That the community and other stakeholders who are informed about and participate in the local law making process are more likely to be supportive of the law and to comply with its requirements;
    · That council’s decision making process will be enhanced by listening to a range of views, by access to a broad range of information and by considering alternatives to the proposed local law.
    · A council that regularly engages with and consults with an empowered community and relevant stakeholders will have a better sense of the issues that might be giving rise to the need for a local law or for the reform or change to an existing local law.
    · Trends such as newly emerging communities (e.g. migrants and refugees) and changing work patterns (e.g. longer working hours, seven day trading) reduce the capacity of traditional models for community involvement to adequately reflect community needs and expectations.

    To be effective, a good consultation process for the local law making process should encompass all of the following:-

    1. provide a clear statement of the objective sought to be promoted by the local law and the information and evidence used to reach the view that the local law was needed.
    2. explain the reasons for the consultation and how the contribution of the community and other relevant stakeholders will influence the decision.
    3. provide a mechanism by which residents and stakeholder can provide feedback and comment to the council and suggest alternative approaches.
    4. ensure there is adequate time for effective community engagement in the consultation process.
    5. ensure that all members of a diverse community have an opportunity to participate in the consultation process and that the process allows council to become aware of the views of all affected members of the community.
    6. ensure that council understands any concerns expressed or alternative views suggested during the course of the consultation process.
    7. operate collaboratively to ensure that effective feedback and explanation is given as to the final decision reached at the conclusion of the consultation process."

    And finally, on page 26 there are these recommendations:


    1. A description of the objectives of the proposed regulation.

    2. An explanation as to why the council believes that the local law is needed.

    3. A statement of how council went about making the decision that the law was needed, including evidence on which the decision is based.

    4. An explanation of why other options were not considered appropriate.

    5. A description of the expected impact on affected groups, particularly small business.

    6. Estimated cost to business in meeting the requirements of the proposed local law.

    7. Estimated costs to council to implement and enforce the proposed local law.

    8. Relationship of the proposed local law to the Council Plan and strategic objectives.

    9. Relationship of the proposed local law to State and Federal laws, other Local Laws and Planning Scheme.

    10. Relationship to the local laws of adjoining municipalities

    11. Strategic indicators by which the effectiveness of the local law will be assessed.

    12. A statement of how council intends to inform affected groups of the impact of the proposed local law, including any planned education and publicity campaigns.

  3. Neil - although I am long past the need for childcare I truly believer that affordable quality care is only possible in a not-for-profit setting. This belief is not just from personal experience, but also backed up by research I have done.

    I would like to see more Council-run centres.

  4. Neil have you got anything positive to say about your Council. In my opinion you are destabilising the staff in the same manner the sacked council did. Almost everything you have mentioned is 100% under Councillor control. You can change anything mentioned simply if you carry 5 votes. It's too easy to blame the Administration.

  5. Anom, there are many admirable qualities to our council, however on this issue similar to GEs environment policy significant progress is needed and feel i am correct in highlighting this.
    I dont believe i am being destabilising but do value your opinion.

  6. Neil I am trying to be constructive. I read the Whelan Report especially the Reappointment Of The CEO section.I would be really interested to read your comments. The one vital lesson I took out of the Report was that the reappointment should not have been fought out in public and that a process should be gone through including interviewing Management.

  7. Neil, you're dead right! Progress implies change. If all we do is sit back on our laurels and assume that all is hunky dorey, and that all GE does is absolutely fabulous there will never be change and progress. All practices and policies and personnel need assessment. This is what is meant by 'quality assurance' or getting the most out of the buck.

  8. Cr Pilling, many of your comments at the Meeting were a direct answer to a direct question from one of the many visitors.

    You were asked categorically what could be done to change the image that the Administration had in its lack of empathy for the community. And that you would work hard to bring about the necessary changes so that disenchanted the residents. I was grateful that we had a person of your integrity representing our needs in the Council - and although I didn't say it on the night - I will now! Thank you for being there for us. I believe your humility in acknowledging the need for change puts you ahead of the rest....for the time being!

    You answered truthfully, that only the CEO was appointed by the Council and the actions of others came under his control.

    You certainly did not undermine the "Administration" but pointed out where responsibility started and ended with the Councillors being able to change the culture that has been allowed to fester.

    You pointed out that some Councillors saw the need for change, while others were "satisfied" with the status quo.

    Anon was obviously not at the meeting, so really doesn't have the right to comment about destabilisation, merely because you chose to take an independent (healthy, refreshing, honest) view of the Council, as a Councillor yourself. You were reacting to comments off the floor which were made by rank and file individuals, with a few public comments by seasoned activists!

    Yes the speakers were all passionate about their perception of treatment dished out to them, but then, it was THEIR EXPERIENCE of a Council that seeks the high moral ground about being better at everything than their counterparts.

    Residents were seeking to let a Councillor know, they don't share Council optimistic view of our love for them! Asked point blank what were YOU going to do to change things, you responded in kind, telling them, as you've told Council, there is always room for improvement!

  9. Neil I agree you are to be congratulated for holding public meetings however I would like to know why these are not ward meetings with our other representatives attending. You must realise that you can never achieve anything without carrying 5 votes. Did you invite the other Ward Councillors? Also if you spend the time reading the Community Satisfaction Statistics you will realise that the Mary Walsh's of the world are a minority. That is not to say they are unimportant because it is important to try to improve Council. Glen Eira performs well in the Survey and if one blames the Administration for all that is wrong then it follows you congratulate them for all that is OK. Look at the Comparative Statistics before the Mary's of the world influence you. My glass is always half full.

  10. I agree Mary. It's a pity that dear Concerned Resident (posing as Anonymous - perhaps because like clunky old me s/he lacks the knowledge/skill to head these messages any other way) still prefers to make allegations about the content of meetings s/he doesn't attend rather than getting out more!

    Venerably (ha ha!)

    PS: I think I may have just learnt a new skill!

  11. Thanks anom, what i gained through reading the Whelan Report was how incredibly
    disfunctional that previous council was and this was the prime reason why the reappointment of the CEO was handled so poorly.
    This council does work well on both a personal and professional level and I will continue to work diligently for this to always be the case.

    I believe my open and honest opinions expressed on this blog are constructive and informing.

  12. The 'community satisfaction' reports have consistently shown that Glen Eira is way behind other councils in terms of 'engagement' and 'advocacy'. As far as the other indicators go, many of them have very little to do with the actual performance of councils - rather, they are a product of socio-economic factors. What is ideally needed is a fair dinkum analysis of what residents actually think about the performance of their councillors and administration. What is needed is the courage to ask such questions as: how would you rate this council on its approach to: (1) local traffic management; (2) how well you think this council is responding to environmental issues, etc. etc. Then we'd have a real clue as to how well or poorly Glen Eira is performing in the eyes of its residents. With such results tabulated, analysed, and disseminated, then perhaps we could all see that Mary Walsh's point of view is legitimate and accurate.

  13. Typical, obfuscation. The facts are not kind to the previous blog. The facts can be determined by visiting the Council site and looking at the Community Survey. Overall Glen Eira can hold it's head up high in comparison to other Councils. The survey is completely independent and statistically accurate. Those who oppose Council at every turn cannot stand the survey and therefore denigrate it.

  14. I'm very alarmed to find that the GE website no longer contains any mention of the call for submissions on its proposed local law. The previous link to the draft, and the tracked document has disappeared after only being up for a couple of days. When I clicked on 'consultation' it was of course, not there either. Is this deliberate? One way of ensuring that the significance of this law does not seep out to the general public? Or just inefficient web management? I leave everyone to draw their own conclusions.

  15. the link is back up!

  16. i looked today on the GE web site and the Local Law link was there, at the top of the list.