SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

WE know from the feedback we receive on social media and our own website that the general community has only a passing interest in politics, especially the politics of local government.
Certainly, everyone could tell you Donald Trump lost the US election, and most would have an opinion how Premier Daniel Andrews has handled the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria.
But which candidates won the election in Bass Coast last Friday, not so much.
However, the shape of the new council, how it engages with the community and how it interacts with the shire’s bureaucracy to get more of what the community wants, and needs, is nonetheless very important.
After the results were handed down last Friday, we learnt that there has been a healthy turnover of council representation, with four departing the scene; Julian Brown and Geoff Ellis unsuccessful at the election and Pam Rothfield and Stephen Fullarton retiring.
All four made their mark at the council table and in the community and we thank them for their service.
The new faces are Leticia Laing in Bunurong Ward, Rochelle Halstead in Westernport, and Ron Bauer and David Rooks on the Island.
They have a lot of work in front of them, especially developing a new Council Plan which describes a vision and the community’s goals over the next four years.
But they need to be careful not to be blinded by the bureaucratic bulldust at this stage, work to gain the confidence of their colleagues on council and start to benchmark the performance of Bass Coast against other councils.
A good place to start for them, and for us, is the ‘Know Your Council’ website.
Here you’ll find that Bass Coast takes 81 days to process a planning application while its peers take around 62 days. The Bass Coast Shire is marked low for “transparency” and “consultation”, the cost of governance is too high and satisfaction levels too low.
The level of borrowings as a ratio of rates is high at 30 per cent but the recurrent grants we receive from government, at $244 per head of population, is half what it should be.
We’re doing some things right at Bass Coast but it’s up to the new council to identify where improvements can be made with the goal that every member of the shire team, from top to bottom, must be committed to best practice in the delivery of services and in converting more of the $86 million in revenue into works and services for the community, within a sustainable financial position.
This new council must be a “can do” council if Bass Coast is to convert its bounteous level of opportunity into jobs and economic prosperity while looking after our beautiful environment and community needs.