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There is a SILENT but RAGING WAR within our Councils.

It is an ideological battle between highly-paid CEOs and the elected Councillor group.

Every 4 years, Victorians vote for a group of Councillors who are required to set strategic plans and form a vision and a direction for their local council.

Statewide Community Satisfaction Results have been dropped in the past weeks and the news isn’t good.

The most telling result is that “State-wide Council Direction” is at an alarming 46%.

This means the majority of Victorians are dissatisfied with their local council’s direction.

From all evidence available, this stems from a belief that Councils have moved further away from communities, tell residents what’s best for them, don’t properly serve and engage with people, and the purpose of councils is becoming more confusing by the week.

So, what is this war?

We speak (often off the record) with Councillors daily. A wide range of Councillors tell us a lot of things including:

  • Behaviours of Councillors and Executives in closed meetings

  • Allegations of bullying (especially of staff)

  • Staff DELIBERATELY misleading councillors or denying them access to accurate information

  • Collusive “group think” to ensure the Councillor group “appear united”

  • A serious battle of will between CEOs and the elected Councillors about “who is the boss”

  • Claims by staff of “not feeling safe” when challenged by councillors over inaccuracies or inconsistencies in information


There is a massive cultural problem within our local Councils.


There are a group of Councillors (sadly in the minority) who diligently work to get accurate and fulsome information to make the best decisions for their communities.

There are TWO types of Councillors:

· The collusive, groupthink, appearance-driven Councillor who is happy to be walked all over by the administration and

· The community-minded, analytical, critical thinking Councillor who will test the information and ask questions to get the best decisions possible

The latter is often the exiled, excluded, and bullied Councillor. Why? Because they pose an existential risk to the ego-driven, appearance-focused majority of Councillors who only care how they look and are not ultimately focused on their community – they are instead focused on themselves.

Local Government has a culture problem – the Tail is wagging the dog.

You only need to listen to the language of senior staff, CEOs, and collusive Councillors – they are the ones who don’t want community questions in public meetings because they are “dangerous”, they are the ones that want EVERY item on the agenda and every motion AGREED prior to a council meeting.

IBAC made it super clear last week in its “Operation Sandon Corruption Findings”, Recommendation 22 that this collusive behaviour MUST STOP.


COMMUNITY SATISFACTION 2023 RESULTS - STATEWIDE


THESE RESULTS ARE AT AN ALL-TIME LOW.


The most telling result is that “State-wide Council Direction” is at an alarming 46%.

This means the majority of Victorians are dissatisfied with their local council’s direction.

From all evidence available, this stems from a belief that Councils have moved further away from communities, tell residents what’s best for them, don’t properly serve and engage with people, and the purpose of councils is becoming more confusing by the week.

So, what is this war?

We speak (often off the record) with Councillors daily. A wide range of Councillors who tell us a lot of things including:

· Behaviours of Councillors and Executives in closed meetings

· Allegations of bullying (especially of staff)

· Staff DELIBERATELY misleading councillors or denying them access to accurate information

· Collusive “group think” to ensure the Councillor group “appear united”

· A serious battle of will between CEOs and the elected Councillors about “who is the boss”

· Claims by staff of “not feeling safe” when challenged by councillors over inaccuracies or inconsistencies in information

There is a massive cultural problem within our local Councils.

There are a group of Councillors (sadly in the minority) who diligently work to get accurate and fulsome information to make the best decisions for their communities.

There are TWO types of Councillors:

· The collusive, groupthink, appearance-driven Councillor who is happy to be walked all over by the administration and

· The community-minded, analytical, critical thinking Councillor who will test the information and ask questions to get the best decisions possible

The latter is often the exiled, excluded, and bullied Councillor. Why? Because they pose an existential risk to the ego-driven, appearance-focused majority of Councillors who only care how they look and are not ultimately focused on their community – they are instead focused on themselves.

Local Government has a culture problem – the Tail is wagging the dog.

You only need to listen to the language of senior staff, CEOs, and collusive Councillors – they are the ones who don’t want community questions in public meetings because they are “dangerous”, they are the ones that want EVERY item on the agenda and every motion AGREED prior to a council meeting.

IBAC made it super clear last week in its “Operation Sandon Corruption Findings”, Recommendation 22 that this collusive behaviour MUST STOP.


The whole idea of local democracy is predicated on your elected councillors recommending motions and ideas to their chamber for robust debate and resolution.

The WAR within your local council is a tug of war about TRANSPARENCY – it’s about whether or not your elected Councillors want a “nice, happy, fake, collusive, agreeable team”, or a team that “seeks to challenge each other’s ideas and get better outcomes”. The latter is what the entire Local Government Act EXPECTS.


So, why are our Councils struggling with this?

Ultimately, it’s a battle for POWER – whether the CEO is a control freak, demanding compliance and adherence to their view (which many do), or if the mayor is the ultimate Prima Dona – demanding that they are seen as the “ONLY” person that matters within the local community.

There are some great CEOs and there are some great Mayors. Sadly, these are in the minority.

What makes a great CEO, is a person who sees the elected Councillor group as a diverse reflection of the community they and their staff are meant to serve. They see the councillors as a group who will always ground the Administration's actions in reality and the view of the people.

What makes a great Mayor, is a person who leads the councillor team knowing that they are no better, no more important, rather, they are simply the team captain that is meant to ensure the councillor group fights for their community, represents the diversity of views and pushes the administration to be accountable and transparent.

Sadly, the Administration is ultimately winning. They are totally in CONTROL of the money, the decision-making processes, the outcomes, and the absolute disconnection from their local communities.


How do we know? 54% of Victorians told us so.


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3 Comments


happy to join - but Moreland is not moreland anymore - you need to use the new name.

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Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
Dec 17, 2023

I remember the council I was working for got a guy to do employee survey for outdoor staff and management failed miserabl. 28 recommendations were made to help fix the bullying and infighting but nothing was ever done. Buloke shire was the council. It’s only got worse since. I had to leave due to PTSD from bullying and harassmen.

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Unknown member
Aug 04, 2023

Also to remember a survey of councils showed customer service was at an all time low. 51% in some councils

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