Benalla Ensign

Better consultati­on needed

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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.

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