LOST OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITY & GOVERNANCE

This is a brief update on our 9th February, 2013 posting. In addition to outlining Council’s failure to purchase the 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena property and or discuss the potential purchase, the 9/2/13 posting also raised pertinent questions on Council’s decision making process, namely

o who made the decision?
o what information was provided to ensure an informed, impartial decision was made?
o did Councillors have some input into the decision or were they advised after the decision was made?

The answers to questions 1 and 3 above are answered via the belated inclusion of the the Records of Assembly+ in Council’s just published agenda for next Tuesday’s (26/2/2013) Council Meeting – extracts of Agenda Items 8b i and 8b ii. 

The relevant minutes for the assemblies of 11th and 18th December, 2012 make no mention of any discussion on the acquisition of the 487 Neerim Road property occurring at either assembly. Ergo, the decision (implicit in Council’s 14/12/2012 letter to GERA) not to purchase the property was not made by Councillors and Councillors had no input into the decision.

Given

  • the significance that residents have been placing on Glen Eira’s limited open space in every community/council plan and State Government “Satisfaction Survey” since 1998 – and vocally reiterated in the 2012-2013 Community Plan, and
  • Council’s abysmal performance in acquiring additional open space (since 2003 only the two Packer Park house lots have been acquired for $1.9m.  Yet, for the same period, Council received $12.8m in Open Space Contributions from high density developers).

The failure to discuss with, or involve Councillors in, this open space issue (in either an open Council Meeting or an assembly) raises serious questions on how governance is practiced in Glen Eira.

  • Who makes decisions and on what information is the decision made?
  •         How are decisions communicated to Councillors and residents?
  • What weight is given to the community’s expressed values?
  • Councillors may delegate authority to act on their behalf, however, the responsibility for the actions taken remains with Councillors. How are decisions made under delegations reported to them? What ability do they have to question administrative actions or to raise residents issues at Council (i.e. with other Councillors and the Administration)?

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Footnotes:

+ An “Assembly of Councillors”, as defined in the Local Law, is an in camera briefing session, involving both the Administration and Councillors, to enable the Administration to report day to day activities to Councillors and inform (or highlight to) Councillors of current and future significant issues – particularly issues that are likely to be contentious.   As per Local Law decisions are not permitted to be made at Assemblies, decisions can only be made at Ordinary (open) Council Meetings.

 * Delegations of Authority – Delegations of Authority (ie. the instruments which confer on the Administration the authority to act, on behalf of the elected representatives, when undertaking the day to day administrative activities associated with the Municipality)

The Delegations of Authority, Councillors have given to the Administration are wide ranging.   Reporting to Councillors of administrative decisions made, under delegations of authority, is at the discretion of the administration.

Links

To make it easier for readers, GERA has included relevant extracts of the Records of Assembly included the referenced Agenda for the 26/02/2013 Council Meeting.   For those interested, a full copy of the Agenda is available from Council’s website – the relevent Agenda Items are 8b i and ii.

CORRRECTION

GERA’s above posting and our earlier (9/2/2013) posting regarding Council’s decision not to purchase the 487 Neerim Road property incorrectly states that Council did not respond to our 15/12/2012 email.  This is incorrect – the Mayor’s response  is dated 24/12/2012 and GERA apologizes to Council, Members and Readers for this omission.

While GERA accepts responsibility for this omission, GERA contends that the points raised in our various postings for considering purchasing the property remain valid and seriously questions Council’s decision making process and Councillor input into that process.

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