Staff at Maribyrnong Council have presented a draft Governance Policy that ignores Ombudsman recommendations on transparency and is otherwise so old-fashioned and clumsy I'm appalled it was made public.
As well as maintaining out-dated guidelines on public question time, paper petitions and advice to address the Mayor as ‘Madam’ the Governance Policy makes no attempt to streamline Council meetings or make them more understandable or accessible for Councillors or residents.
There is even a step- by-step template on how Councillors should move certain motions because it’s so complicated .
I’ve watched at Council meetings as the Mayor fumbles around for cheat-sheets on the order in which things should be done. It’s embarrassing. Yet no-one realised that re-writing Council’s Governance Policy presented a golden opportunity to rectify this problem.
The preamble to the Policy states“..these Governance Rules have been developed with the Template released by Maddocks Lawyers. The use of the Maddocks Template Governance Rules ensures that Council continues to provide good governance through the performance of its role in accordance with the overarching governance principles and supporting principles of the Local Government Act 2020.”
Does this mean the Governance Director and Manager now have no responsibility for the sub-standard content in the Draft Governance Policy? Why is Council paying lawyers when it has an entire Governance Division? Why, if Council has paid lawyers, are the Governance Rules below the transparency standards recommended by the Ombudsman?
These rules maintain secret votes, restrict resident participation in Council meetings and are certainly not efficient.
As for transparency and efficiency I have been forced to lodge an official complaint with the CEO to ask for agendas to be published at least 5 working days in advance - as recommended by the Ombudsman.
I asked Councillors - they refused.
I asked the Director of Governance and was refused.
And of course, the new Draft Governance Policy rejects my complaint -as though it never existed.
I know these are only meeting procedures so most people wouldn’t even bother to read them. The Councillors obviously haven’t.
So they haven’t noticed that despite 3 pages describing meetings where Councillors and Staff have to declare conflicts of interest, there’s nothing about what happens if Councillors and Staff fail to declare a conflict of interest.
They haven’t noticed that despite the fact they, and Council, are supposed to represent us, the people, we’re barely mentioned at all.
We’re still restricted to 3 questions at Council meetings even though agendas run to several hundred pages.
Question time is limited to 15 minutes, even though there might be 5 different issues on the agenda and Councillors may have ignored resident emails on those topics in the preceding days, weeks or months.
When I take the time to participate in Council, I deserve to be treated much, much better, than these sub-standard Governance Rules decree.