At this week’s council meeting, it was resolved to advertise the long awaited draft Local Law. Residents will be disappointed with the proposals given that:

  • The significant tree register does not feature. It will take another report, another round of consultation before anything is codified. We assume this will not be before March 2020. Shameful that after all this time, council is still unable to get its act together in a timely fashion. Further, there is still no guarantee that it will even get up with the likes of Magee, Esakoff, Sztrajt and Cade already stating their potential opposition to laws regulating private property. We will have to wait and see what kind of compromise the draft document features.
  • Even more disappointing is the failure of this council to even entertain the idea of a Notice of Motion. We have commented on this ad nauseum over the years. How is it in the best interests of residents and sound governance that Glen Eira is the only council in the state (the last time we checked this out) that refuses to grant councilors the opportunity to raise an issue and hence to adequately represent their constituents? If there is concern about making ad hoc decisions without the ‘expert’ advice of officers, this is easily overcome with the opportunity for officers to comment at the next council meeting. That’s how Kingston does it for example.
  • Also unacceptable is the continuation of the current Public Questions policy. Still a limit of 150 words. Still no public record of what was asked if the questioner isn’t present since the query is not read out and does not go into the minutes. Hence calling this section ‘PUBLIC QUESTIONS’ is ironic indeed. Answers to questions should be on the public record. That is how accountability and transparency are maintained. It is simply not good enough that a ‘response’ is given to the individual and the community has no idea of the question, the answer, and the issue.
  • Council’s constant refrain is that they desire to engage more people. Placing Public Questions near the end of each meeting defeats this entirely. It forces residents to sit through up to three hours (often of sheer tedium) before their questions are read out. All of our neighbouring councils see the folly of this approach. Municipalities such as Bayside, Stonnington, Port Phillip, Monash and Kingston for example place their Public Questions early on following the confirmation of the minutes. Why this can’t be done in Glen Eira is mind boggling, unless of course it is to ensure that few residents have the stamina to wait for hours before their question is read out and responded to.
  • Finally we also remind readers that an ombudsman’s report of recent times recommended that council agendas be made available at least 5 working days prior to a council meeting. In Glen Eira the mantra is that agendas are only available on the preceding Friday after noon and that public questions must be in on the following Monday before noon. It certainly does not give residents time to digest what is often hundreds upon hundreds of pages, nor the time to successfully lobby councilors before a decision is made.

It is instructive that when councilors resolved to advertise the Local Law the above issues (apart from the tree register briefly) weren’t even mentioned. If council is serious about enhancing community engagement, and being as transparent and accountable as possible, then these ‘laws’ are the things that will ensure it doesn’t happen.