SO THE South Gippsland Shire Council had a fight last week.
When it comes to considering whether or not to close our pools, spend $25 million on new shire offices and putting the rates and charges of some home owners up by more than $200 a year… perhaps they should be fighting about it more often.
And that’s not to mention the unsustainable increases in staff expenditure.
We, the people, want to see more of these weighty issues discussed in open council, not behind closed doors where our councillors are free to do the bidding of persuasive shire management officials.
We want to see how our elected local government representatives perform on our behalf, how they stand up to the shire management where necessary with well-reasoned and well-research arguments, and whether they understand our priorities or are simply pushing their own agenda.
Cr Fawcett was accused of playing the man and not the ball in his criticism of recalcitrant councillors McEwen and Hill last week, who in turn criticised his fellow councillors of breaking some unseen, unwritten agreement to advise their colleagues of a contrary position before going public.
What a lot of tripe!
There’s too much being done behind closed doors at local councils these days and we’d occasionally like to see our councillors have a proper, no-holds-barred debate even if it’s only to prove they are fair dinkum about representing their constituents.
There’s a lot at stake.
For example while Foster is getting $862,000 to upgrade its streetscape, there’s nothing being set aside for Leongatha’s Bair Street redevelopment and only $54,000 for yet another plan for Korumburra’s commercial district.
Aren’t we sick of seeing plan after plan for Korumburra and nothing happening!
And while the shire council is thinking about handing local outdoor pools back to their communities, they’re planning to spend $70,000 simply to work out how they are going to spend millions more on an expansion of SG Splash in Leongatha.
These might well be the right decisions but they are also issues about which local communities can get passionate – and so be it.
And another thing, when council releases its annual budget, they only show us the things they want us to see. Where are all the works and services that didn’t make the final cut? It’s the $24 million in staff expenditure that’s stopping more of these worthy projects seeing the light of day.
What we don’t like to see, and this may well be advancing our own ‘conspiracy theory’ here about last week’s budget discussions at council, is councillors reading from apparently orchestrated and office prepared statements in answer to various aspects raised by councillors advancing contrary positions, like Crs McEwen and Hill have been doing in recent months.
Maybe these two councillors are just being populists with an election next year approaching.
Or maybe they are doing what we’d like to see more councillors doing – asking the bloody question!
Let’s see more fair dinkum debates! – SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT