By Michael Giles
THE Sentinel-Times took on the Bass Coast Shire Council’s ‘spin doctors’ last week and, predictably, we lost!
Actually we all lost; the community, the council and the Sentinel-Times.
Having received a copy of the Bass Coast Shire’s ‘Mayor’s Message’ on Friday in which it was claimed “all measures were generally on a par with last year’s results”, a comment on the latest ‘Community Satisfaction Survey’, we asked for a copy of the report to be sure that what we were being asked to publish was accurate.
The report had been out for weeks. The council had already been briefed on it and according to Cr Neil Rankine, was finished with its deliberations and response.
South Gippsland’s CEO Tim Tamlin was already out commenting on his shire’s report, mystified about a failing result despite incredible advocacy success, including winning funding for the $5.34 million Karmai Children’s Centre at Korumburra.
So what was Bass Coast waiting for?
The shire’s CEO Paul Buckley, together with his Communications Department, were waiting for (another?) press release to be ticked off, and together with the report, these would be going out on Tuesday as planned, the day after the local newspapers go to press.
And that’s how it happened.
The results of the independent survey speak for themselves. The report is not a Bass Coast Shire document. It is prepared for the State Government’s DELWP department by JWS Research after 401 local people have been surveyed.
Sure enough, though, both the Mayor’s Message and the media release that followed sought to put a positive light on the survey, leading with the claim that responses were “on a par” with last year where they had actually deteriorated compared to other Large Rural Councils and also against the State average.
As it turned out though, Bass Coast had actually out-performed South Gippsland in that its standing in the community hadn’t fallen quite so far.
The point is though, if the Mayor is going to come out and make comment about an independent report, the council should be prepared to make the report available to the community at the same time so that it can balance its own impressions with those of the shire, as enunciated by the Mayor.
Or else, don’t make the comment.
Of course, if the council is really serious about being ‘open and transparent’ it wouldn’t be playing those games and would simply release the report in a timely manner.
Councillors, the mayor included, should not be participating in ‘The Spin Games’ and should instead remember that one of the main reasons they attend meetings and briefings on our behalf is to keep us, the community better informed.
It’s high time our councillors realised that they stand at the head of the community, not at the head of the shire’s administration.