By Michael Giles
– At least tell us the truth
THE people have spoken and only four of the 16 sitting councillors have been re-elected across Bass Coast and South Gippsland in the recent local government elections.
Three of the 16 decided not to nominate, but for nine of the 13 who did stand, not to be re-elected, it sends a clear message.
The people voted for change.
However, the 18 successful candidates should be under no illusions.
They’ll face the same response in four years’ time without fundamental adjustment.
One of the main reasons people voted for change was the failure of their local shire to meet their reasonable expectations for improvements in roads, services and infrastructure.
But under the present arrangements with capped rates, falling government support in real terms, and a risk-averse, over-bloated administration running wasteful operations; it’s going to be tough to bring about real change.
But they can stop the waste on consultancies and projects that don’t have community support.
The voters want a proper transfer station at Cowes, safer roads and a heated pool on Phillip Island, but no special charge schemes.
At Wonthaggi they want the shire to get on with the redevelopment of the town’s sporting and arts facilities.
At Inverloch they simply want money spent on the pathway and not on more consultancies.
At Korumburra, the business community wants the re-development of the CBD brought forward, everyone wants their pools protected and the outlying areas want a better share of funding and projects.
But the reality is they are unlikely to get those things quickly unless more money is forthcoming for local government from outside or these new councillors somehow squeeze blood out of their fat bureaucracies.
Regardless of where they go with this, they’ve got to be honest and open with the community about where they stand and what needs to happen.
If, for example, we can’t afford to keep maintaining unmade roads and drainage in old residential areas, the council may have to make the hard decision to bring back special charge schemes for the greater good.
There’ll be other hard decisions too but new councillors can’t simply sit back and let the bureaucracy come up with the ideas about where cuts should be made. They have their own vested interests which start with keeping their jobs and salary packages.
The new councillors will have to do their own research, so they can run their own show. Spend the time between monthly council meetings working hard to settle on the community’s priorities and then, work together as a team to deliver.
Divided they’ll be weak. Easily picked off by the shire’s executive.
If, at the end of the day, some things can be done, or unpopular decisions need to be made, then tell us, convince us that we’re in this together.
And if the bureaucracy is being obstructive or failing to keep the council informed. Make that public too.
Let’s make this a real partnership between the community, the council and the shire bureaucracy so that we can wring the very best out of the limited resources we have.