Volunteers shut out
Indigo to change community committees
INDIGO Shire Council will next week consider significant changes to its longstanding community advisory committees’ structure and the ways in which the committees work.
But the volunteers who have long provided the council with advice on a range of important community matters – from environmental management to disability access and economic development and tourism to heritage conservation – will not be paid the courtesy of seeing the recommendations ahead of councillors.
Beechworth Burke Museum and heritage precinct advisory committee chairman John Baines is deeply concerned that the council’s executive management, which has driven the review, seems bereft of effective mechanisms to engage productively with community advisory groups.
Mr Baines told Indigo corporate services director Greg Pinkerton – the manager responsible for the review and the council’s newly-appointed acting chief executive – that it was inappropriate to put to councillors the council management team’s view of necessary changes before these were discussed with each committee.
He said the presentation of the review recommendations to the elected council for endorsement before the respective committees had an opportunity to comment on the collective data relating to them was poor process.
He said it reflected “the longstanding lack of understanding and recognition of the need to change the protocols executed by the council executive managers in dealing with endorsed volunteer advisory committees”.
The council initiated the review in December 2015 as part of its governance and risk management strategy.
It included what it described as quantitative and qualitative review methods – using surveys of councillors, committee members and the community – to provide a “holistic view” of each committee’s operation.
It advised the committees at the time that a report with recommendations for each of them would be provided to councillors and the committees then would be told of the outcomes.
Mr Pinkerton has defended the process, telling Mr Baines that “we need to get the council’s endorsement of the general approach before we seek specific feedback from the committees to make sure that the direction is appropriate”.
“The council makes the final decision,” Mr Pinkerton said.
“At this stage the committee review has been prepared by staff and the council has not been presented with the report.
“It is therefore quite inappropriate for the next stage of the consultation process to commence without it being reviewed by the council first.”
But Mr Baines questioned how the council’s management could claim satisfactorily to have engaged in consultation with all interests when it had not asked each committee as an entity for a contribution.
He said the process meant that the executive was seeking an endorsement from the elected council on incomplete data.
Mr Pinkerton said a meeting with all committees to discuss the in-principle recommendations was to be held on September 27 – the day after next week’s council meeting.