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CEO Reigns Supreme in new Council Bill 2019

UPDATE: All ALP and Liberal Party MPs voted in favour of this Legislation.

Residents and Ratepayers are barely mentioned in the new Local Government Bill 2019 apart from being forced to vote and pay rates (including penalties if rates aren’t paid on time.)

In stark contrast, the CEO is empowered to reign supreme with virtually no supervision and no limit to how much can be spent or what items can be purchased.

It’s difficult to over-state the severity of resident mistreatment.

Firstly, the omissions from the Legislation.

The word resident doesn’t appear at all - it’s ‘municipal community.’ And the definition includes developers and political parties and lobby groups.

There’s no mention in the Legislation of any guidelines or principles relating to ratepayer objections to rate notices.

Out of 391 clauses, one paragraph in one clause mentions setting rates and rating policies, with no reference to residents, affordability, CPI, benchmarks or anything useful to ensure residential ratepayers aren’t ripped off.

Residents and ratepayers are conspicuously absent from being able to make any effective contribution to decisions about: budgets, staffing, complaints policies, rate policies, rate levels, any fees set by Council or pay levels for the CEO or Directors or Councillors.

And despite the headlines of the current Casey Council scandal over developer kick-backs, there’s absolutely no mention of whistleblower protections for staff or Councillors who suspect financial mis-management or corruption.

There are references to IBAC and other pompous-sounding but useless mandarins and tribunals but they only take effect after the damage is done. And they cost ratepayers extra. So when staff or councillors suspect ratepayers might have already been ripped off, ratepayers have to foot the bill for the investigation.

So this Legislation forces residents to vote and pay rates and in return fails to provide any useful or effective protections for ratepayers’ finances and provides no powers to take part in decisions relating to their money..

All the power in this Legislation resides with the Council CEO.

Under the Legislation the CEO: ..”Has responsibility for the operations of the Council by, among other things, maintaining an organisational structure, being responsible for staffing matters,..and may...appoint as many members of Council staff as are required.”

Which has a double-benefit for CEO’s because then they point to all the responsibility they have under the Legislation and get a big fat, ratepayer-funded pay packet.

So, then you think - well it is the Councillors’ jobs to supervise the CEO. But no, not according to the Law.

28 .Role of a Councillor

(1) The role of every Councillor is—

(a) to participate in the decision making of the Council; and

(b) to represent the interests of the municipal community in that decision making; and

(c) to contribute to the strategic direction of the Council through the development and

review of key strategic documents of the Council, including the Council Plan.

(2) In performing the role of a Councillor, a Councillor must—

(a) consider the diversity of interests and needs of the municipal community; and

(b) support the role of the Council; and

(c) acknowledge and support the role of the Mayor; and

(d) act lawfully and in accordance with the oath or affirmation of office; and

(e) act in accordance with the standards of conduct; and

(f) comply with Council procedures required for good governance.

So there’s actually nothing in the Legislation to indicate that Councillors are there to ensure that the CEO does a good job.

In fact, the Legislation virtually says Councillors CANNOT effectively supervise the CEO without the CEO’s consent.

124 Directing a member of Council staff

A Councillor must not intentionally direct, or seek to direct, a member of Council staff—

(a) in the exercise of a delegated power, or the performance of a delegated duty or function of the Council; or

(b) in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty or function exercised or performed by the member as an authorised officer under this Act or any other Act; or

(c) in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty or function the member exercises or performs in an office or position the member holds under this Act or any other Act; or

(d) in relation to advice provided to the Council or a delegated committee, including advice in a report to the Council or delegated committee.

Now I understand we can’t have Councillors directing staff to implement corrupt or fraudulent activities but these clauses aren’t restricted to ‘bad’ direction: it’s any and all directions, effectively rendering Councillors impotent.

And if our elected representatives are impotent, so are we.

So, not only are residents excluded from any effective involvement in Council planning, Councillors are excluded from any effective supervision to be able to act on residents’ behalf.

This is outrageous. It also explains why core problems with Council have never been solved.

They're entrenched in the Legislation.

It's time for MPs to stand up for ratepayers. Block this Bill. Write a better one.

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