The minutes of the July 19th council meeting deserve close attention. We have focused on the Public Questions fiasco as well as Requests for a Report

Public Questions

“In light of ratepayers’ concerns regarding Skyrail and lack of transparency to date ,and Council’s unanimous motion seeking information from the State Government,how can Council justify charging exhorbitant fees in relation to FOI’d information?”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) provides the public with a right to access documents in the possession of agencies such as Council, subject to the exemptions in Part IV of the Act and subject to the payment of charges which are required to be paid by the applicant before access is granted in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 2014 (‘Regulations’). When processing requests under the Act, Council is bound by the requirements set out in the Act. Regulation 6 provides that an applicant who has made a request in accordance with section 17 of the Act is liable to pay charges set out in or calculated in accordance with the Schedule to the Regulations.

The Schedule to the Regulations sets out ten items together with the respective charges which agencies are required to charge applicants for particular services as part of processing their requests. These include the reasonable costs incurred by the agency in providing copies of documents. This is calculated by multiplying the relevant officer’s hourly salary by the hours spent in producing the relevant documents.

Council receives many requests under the Act every year and has limited resources available to process these requests. Requests made under the Act can be broad and require many hours of officers’ time to process. This can put a substantial burden on Council’s resources and cost ratepayers thousands of dollars. It also impacts on the provision of other services which Council provides to the community. It is therefore Council’s responsibility to accurately calculate and impose the charges payable under the Regulations for requests made under the Act to ensure that ratepayers are not disadvantaged by the processing of such requests, some of which can be significant in terms of officers’ time.

In most cases, charges calculated by Council under the Regulations are lower than the true cost incurred by Council in processing requests under the Act.”

COMMENT

There is much to quibble with in the above. We have uploaded the ‘regulations’ (here) so that readers may see for themselves what they state and the charges they include. For starters:

We do love the following questions and the ‘responses’ –

“Given council have spent in excess of $40k isn’t it time for the likes of councillor Hyams and Magee to stop with this childish behaviour towards Councillor Lobo and get on with the job of running the council not on public attacks within the council. I also believe we the rate payers are entitled to see what the QC thought in her report to council- this is public property not confidential; we paid (the rate payers) so we are entitled to be part of the evaluation process. A closed door mentality smacks of a boys club which is far from good corporate governance. The state government needs to watch this council closely.”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

The Transport Planning department undertook observations of the parking demands prior to the restrictions being introduced in Phillip Street, Bentleigh. At that time, high,long term parking demands where being experienced along both sides of the street from Patterson Road to approximately No. 16 Philip Street. After the restrictions were introduced, the long term parking demands on the western side (i.e. the restricted side) of the street reduced considerably. The Metro Train Network Map (available on the PTV website) confirms that Patterson Station is located within Zone 2, as previously stated. However, since January 2015 commuters travelling across Zone 1 and 2 are only charged a Zone 1 fare (rather than both a Zone 1 fare and Zone 2 fare).

It is suggested by Mr Searle that the 2-hour parking at the off-street car park be converted to all day parking. It is considered that there currently exists an appropriate balance between the various car parking demands in the area. Converting short term, shopping centre customer parking to long term, commuter parking within the off-street car park could have a negative impact on the ability for shopping centre customers to find convenient car parking.

Council Policy Exclusion of Specific Developments from the Residential Parking Permit Scheme was adopted on 26 May 2013. After this date, new developments in local shopping centres have been excluded from the residential parking permit scheme. The list of properties excluded from obtaining residential parking permits within the municipality is available on Council’s website.

Council has received 17 enquires from residents of the Caulfield streets where parking changes were recently made. Residents of these streets have been advised that the new conditions will be reviewed in February 2017. However, ongoing feedback from residents will be sought to inform the review. Council has also this evening received a petition signed by 63 Caulfield residents. Finally, under Item 9.5 this evening Council resolved to review our Parking Restrictions Policy and review parking in Growth Zones, General Residential Zones and Neighbourhood Residential Zones.

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“Now the QC’s investigation is over and the report is in on councillors behaviour when will this be made available to the public and if not why not?”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

Council will consider the report under Item 12.1 Confidential Business this evening. At that time Council will resolve what, if any, further action will be taken, and whether the report will be released publicly.”

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“Council will consider the report under Item 12.1 Confidential Business this evening. At that time Council will resolve what, if any, further action will be taken, and whether the report will be released publicly.”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“The only transcript of the meeting is the official minute which you will be able to access at the following link : http://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/Council/Meetings-and-agendas/Council-meetingminutes?dlv_OC%20CL%20Public%20Meetings=(pageindex=2)

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The best ‘response’ however is –

Given council have spent in excess of $40k isn’t it time for the likes of councillor Hyams and Magee to stop with this childish behaviour towards Councillor Lobo and get on with the job of running the council not on public attacks within the council. I also believe we the rate payers are entitled to see what the QC thought in her report to council- this is public property not confidential; we paid (the rate payers) so we are entitled to be part of the evaluation process. A closed door mentality smacks of a boys club which is far from good corporate governance. The state government needs to watch this council closely.”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“Council welcomes your comments, however as they are not a Question, they do not satisfy the provisions under point 232 (Public Questions) of the Glen Eira City Council Local Law. If you would like to rephrase your comments as a Question and resubmit them we would be happy to consider them at a future meeting of the Council and respond accordingly.”

Request(s) for a Report

Crs Hyams/Magee

That Officers prepare a report into the potential for Council to collaborate with schools in Glen Eira to utilise their open space and grounds for use by sporting clubs and the wider community.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

This request for a report sounds very similar to another request dating back to 2008. The eventual Newton report, tabled months later, recommended the ‘revolutionary’ tactic of writing a letter to all schools and the Education Department. Of course, nothing positive eventuated from this rather lame attempt. Newton’s report was more of the same – schools are not our responsibility but the Government’s, etc. Thus, instead of offering schools real incentives (such as payment), the idea lapsed. And so typical of this council – no corporate memory, no real follow up, and no results over 8 years. Politically though, it sounds mighty fine to regurgitate something that was first mooted 8 years ago and then sank into oblivion.

Here is what the record states from 2008 –

Crs Esakoff/Whiteside

That a report be prepared into any opportunities that may exist for Council in the provision of additional/improved areas of open space that could be used for both passive and active recreation within Glen Eira’s existing school network.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously. (minutes of 26th February 2008)

Report by Newton tabled 20th May 2008. Council resolution read –Crs Esakoff/Spaulding

That Council write to all primary and secondary schools in Glen Eira along the lines of Attachment A and send a copy to the Victoria Department of Education

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously

Of far more significance is the following request –

Crs Delahunty/Magee

That a report be prepared showing the expenses and expected revenue of the Wellness Centre at GESAC and that the report also show options for a social venture element and potential community or business partnerships that can be explored to deliver a social outcome

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

Readers will remember that this issue was part of the budget ‘debate’ and was ultimately carried in the face of strong opposition from Delahunty, Sounness and Lobo. We make no comment on the Wellness Centre per se. What concerns us is the politics involved and the apparent lack of due diligence when councillors vote for something and the abysmal lack of information that is presented to both councillors and the public.

When tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars are earmarked for what some may see as ‘dubious’ ventures, then surely the rationale (including facts, figures, projections) should be automatically provided and disseminated. The reasoning behind the expenditure of public money should never be an ‘afterthought’ seeking political vindication or a cheap point scoring exercise.

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