Better consultation needed
We live in difficult times and for a start, many of us would like to improve life in Benalla.
This would be easily done if we had some influence on the decisions made by the Benalla Shire chief executive officer and his staff, on our behalf, but it seems that consultation is not considered part of their mandate.
We are currently being asked for submissions on the Council Community Engagement Policy.
This policy appears by the council’s current attitude and procedures to consist entirely of notifying the public/relevant residents when decisions have already been made, and therefore no meaningful dialogue can be entered into.
The level of dissatisfaction is very high in the community at present as, in our various roles as volunteers, we are not valued or considered.
For example nobody I speak to can see a valid reason to have a cinema under the museum in a flood area.
Perhaps the council could conduct a survey to see what residents actually do want.
The decision to alter the Senior Citizens Facility and present the final plan to the three groups who share it, two days before
Christmas, is another example of lack of consultation. It seems in my research that the elected councillors are virtually powerless to achieve anything.
They are prohibited to speak to council staff except the CEO, and their only role seems to be to develop policy.
It also appears that councillors accept the recommendations of council staff without considering any contrary submissions from the general public.
The new Community Engagement Policy must include the words ‘‘respect for all citizens and their opinions’’.
Most of us know a lot more about, and understand Benalla better, than many of the council staff.
The policy must be presented to the community for genuine consideration, and with sufficient time to do this.
This may provide some hope for the future, in that councillors can then act in accordance with community priorities.