Item 9.8 involved the terms of reference for the community consultation committee. We urge all readers to pay careful attention to the stated ‘function and role’. It reads:

“To make recommendations to Council in relation to the ways in which Council consults with residents,ratepayers and other stakeholders in the community to ensure maximum participation, communication and value to the community”.

In other words, the committee’s function is basically to partake ONLY in the mechanics of consultation, rather than providing direct input into any form of decision making as to the outcomes of these consultations. This important area of course, will be left first to the administrators and then councillors we presume. Thus only the first step in the ‘consultation’ continuum is being met and that is how to ‘engage’ with people – full stop. This committee is not granted any powers beyond that. It will presumably have no say in assessment, review, or participation in any decision making on the results of the ‘consultation’.

Nor do we believe it’s an ‘accident’ that the very important word REVIEW is now missing from these new terms of reference. The term was present in the original 2011 version. Also gone is the requirement that the committee meets at least 4 times a year. This has now been replaced with “as and when required”. Not that most committees do meet 4 times a year, but the omission we believe is significant in that it further erodes any formal structures and rules that should govern the running of such committees. Finally, as we’ve already noted, there is mention of ‘agreed criteria’ for the selection of community reps, but these are not provided, and definitely not made public. We can only speculate as to whether or not they even exist!

Following is the actual ‘debate’ on this item. Readers should carefully consider comments made by councillors and how the very notion of ‘consultation’ is watered down to practically nothing. Hyams’ hallmarks of ‘success’ such as the e-newletter and the notice boards are damning in themselves. Residents are lucky to receive 2 newsletters per year, and as a previous post pointed out, the notice boards were discussed, and discussed, and discussed for at least 2 years before little plastic boxes appeared in Glen Eira streets. Great achievements we say in open consultation, transparency and accountability!

Delahunty moved the motion and Lobo seconded.

DELAHUNTY: said that they had ‘long discussions’ about the number of community reps. She would like to ‘see more’ but happy with the current recommendation of 4. Went on to say that the ‘role and function is quite important’ in that recommendations about ‘the way we talk to residents’ is included and can then become the basis for ‘conversations’ with a ‘broad range of people’. Thought that ‘this is great’ and will help keep things ‘relevant’.

LOBO: couldn’t add much to Delahunty, and said this was ‘just streamlining’ of the terms of reference. Noted that the only thing that’s changed is ‘that the chair does not have the extra vote’. ‘So that will be a very interesting committee meeting’. Hoped that once the community reps were appointed they would be able to ‘steer this committee to heights that” the community would like in ‘the name of transparency’.

SOUNNESS: asked whether the terms of reference have ‘to follow certain forms’ and why this seemed to be different?

WAIT: answered that ‘they don’t’ have to follow any form and that each committee’s terms of reference can be different.

HYAMS: said that the committee began in ‘last term of council’ ‘at my suggestion’. Said that ‘most issues were decided by consensus’. Said that it’s important to ‘consult with the community’ but also that they ‘do so effectively’ and keep on improving. Claimed there were a ‘number of good initiatives’ from the committee  such as the ‘e-newsletter’ and ‘community notice-boards’ and hoped to see ‘future improvements’.