The agenda for tonight’s council meeting features an item on council delegations. We are told that the reason this item was withdrawn from the previous council meeting was because there was the need to resolve an administrative error in the attachment. One can hardly call major changes to what appeared in last month’s agenda as merely ‘administrative’. The reasons for these changes are not explained. Could it simply be that councillors have again been put in their place and the power of officers retained and enforced?

Some background is important here. Scores of other councils in their delegations set hard and fast rules for when applications are to go to a full council decision, or will be determined by officers alone. Whitehorse for instance states clearly that officers can only decide an application if there are 5 or less objections. Otherwise it goes to a full council meeting. Hobson’s Bay specifies 7 objections. Boroondara cites between 1 and 5 objections plus this significant clause –

3-storey or 3+ storey dwelling/s or 3-storey or 3+ storey residential buildings within the General Residential Zone (excluding residentially-zoned land located within the boundaries of an activity centre);  

Buildings that exceed the applicable preferred maximum overall building height described in Design and Development Overlay Schedule 17 (DDO17);

In last month’s agenda the withdrawn item included such specifications. This latest version has reverted to what has always been council’s position – ie no quantitative clarification of when an application goes to a full council meeting for decision. Why the change? And can residents ever hope to receive a full and honest explanation?

There are plenty of other issues with these delegations and they are not new. Some councils have the equivalent of Glen Eira’s Delegated Planning Committee where councillors sit on these panels. In Glen Eira, the DCP consists entirely of officers and no minutes are ever published. Councillors are effectively side-lined. Considering that officers make approximately 95-98% of all planning decisions, this endows them with enormous power but without the necessary transparency and accountability.

We have for years bemoaned the fact that in Glen Eira there is no ‘councillor call-in’. In other councils, any councillor may determine (some with other councillor endorsements) for an application to be brought to council. This simply does not exist in Glen Eira. Again a very useful omission to safeguard officer’s autonomy and power. For the record, here is a list of a few councils who do provide for councillor call in via their delegations –












We do not expect councillors to determine every single application. That would be unworkable. What we do expect is that when councillors see the need, for whatever reason, that they be granted the legal right to determine the outcome and for there to be a record of their decision making which is published. The way things stand in Glen Eira, councillors are nothing more than an inconvenient impediment to bureaucratic rule and must be kept in their place. This approach, plus all the other processes employed by this council, is the antithesis of what good governance and transparency demands.