Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hiding the count

Victorian Electoral Commission refuses to publish details of 2005 Municipal Elections

Mr Ian Quick, President of t Save Our Suburbs, has written to the Victorian State Government and the Victorian Electoral Commission seeking copies of the recorded ballot paper preferences used to tabulate the results of the election. For spacious reason unknown the Victorian Electoral Commission has refused to make this information available. The failure of the Electoral Commission to publish this information in association with the results of the election undermines public confidence in the conduct of Victoria's elections.

With the introduction of electronic computer based counting systems access to this information is vital to maintaining an honest, open and transparent electoral system.

The City of Melbourne in 1999 and 2001 tried unsuccessfully to prevent the release of this information. The Melbourne City Council spent over $60,000, acting under the misguided direction of Alison Lyons, Melbourne City Council's Governance Officer in attempt to deny open and transparent scrutiny of the conduct of the Council's elections. This matter was the subject of a successful appeal to the Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal in 1999 (van der Craats v City fo Melbourne [2000] VCAT 447 (29 January 2000) VICTORIAN CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL General List No. 1999/057919)

The ruling of the tribunal requiring the City of Mlebourne and the Australian Electoral Commisison to release this information was made without reservation and was a clear indication that specious the argument put forward by the City of Melbourne was lacking substance and merit.

Why has the Victorian Electoral Commission refused to publish this information?

The VEC's argument has no legal or administrative basis. Copies of the ballot prefence data file should be readily aviailable to the public and should form part of the declartion of the results of the election.

This issue has been back and forth with the Victorian Electoral Commission on a number of occasions.

Clearly the Victorian Electoral Commission in refusing to provide Mr Quick the information requested raises serious questions pertaining the conduct of Elections.

The need to provide open and transparent electoral procedures is important if public confidence in our electoral system is to be maintained. With the introduction of proportional representation in the election of the Legislative Council this issue needs to be resolved well before November State Election.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Melbourne City Bank

State Government raids City fo Melbourne Capital reserves to fund speculative private development

The Victorian State Government seeks to acquire 43 Million Dollars of Melbourne City Council's capital reserves to fund speculative private/commercial development, further reducing the Council's working capital ratio.

The Age - $1 Billion Mini-City Along the Yarra

Whilst the city needs investment one has to seriously question if Council's priority should be on underwriting State Government - private investment speculative projects.

If the project is viable then why is the City of Melbourne is being asked to make a contribution and what are the overall benefits?

Melbourne City Council is still paying for Federation Square which has been a financial disaster and a project that was ill-conceived and poorly managed.

More questions then answers

Ratepayers of the City of Melbourne need to know if they are to committee 43 Million Dollars what is the return rate for their investment and will the City be equal partners/shareholders and will the City Council see real dividends from any commercial activity/profit? Or is the City Council expected to just chip in and meet the costs of external infrastructure and forgo and real profits in effect providing the State G0vernment and private developers with a free access to Council's reserves?

43 Million dollars wisely invested elsewhere can return significant dividends.

It is incumbent n the State Government and the City of Melbourne to publish a prospectus providing full details of the costs and economic viability of the project, and not hide behind commercial confidentiality, before committing to any joint partnership development project.

Anything short of full disclosure should be met by the City Council with stiff resistance and refusal to fund the project.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

City taken to the Cleaners

Melbourne City Council CEO fails to negoiate cost of clean-up after the games. Ratpayers left to pick up the tab

Melbourne City Council CEO, David Pitchford, failed to negoiate the cost of clean-up following the Commonwealth Games leaving ratepayers to foot the bill for the clean-up costs.

Herald-Sun

The City of Melbourne has spent at least 32 Million dollars on Commonweath Games related expenditure including $170,000 in cost of free tickets to events for Councillors , staff, guests and hangers-on.

Normally clean-up costs of major events are paid for by organsiers of Major events but this time Melbourne City Council's CEO and Council Officers failed to ensure that the Games organisers made provision for the clean-up adding further to the costs to the City for this extravagent two weeks jock fest event.

The failure of the City Council to ensure that organisers meet any additional cost raises ongoing concern about the ability of David Pitchford to manage the affairs of the city and the ability of the Council to keep a watch on the performance and administration of the Council.


Our elected Councillors more interested in partying and social events then they are in administration and proper governance.

Meanwhile our Lord mayor, John So, makes unsubstanciated claims in statements to the Herald Sun that the City will reap dividends from the Games event. How? John So conveiniantly failed to outline extacly how and how much Melbourne will benefit. We doubt that Melbourne will see any real benefit from its 32 million dollar give away and that is not counting the one to two billion dollars that the State Government has spent overall on the games.

Any excuse and pretense to justfiy the unjustifiable.

John So, our City Councillors and staff are more then happy to spend up up big with no limit on costs as Melbourne is left to pick up the tab.

The Melbourne City Council continues to avoid responsibility and accountability by refusing to disclos—É the full costs and alleged benefits.

Melbourne may never know the true cost of Ron Walker's folly, if at all, until after the November State election.

Hopefully this will be the last Commonwealth Games event held in Australia

Friday, February 17, 2006

Beyond the Law

Singer again in the media spotlight this time over planning breaches

Melbourne City Council's Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, is again in the media spotlight following revelations that he and a company he works for breached local planning laws and commenced building without a planning permit.

Herald-Sun Friday Feb 17, 2006

More and more information comes to light that indicates that John So had made a serious error of judgment when he selected Gary Singer to be his no 2. Most people close to the City Council are of the belief that Gary Singer should resign and Catherine NG take over as John So's Deputy. The problem is if Singer does resign, under the rules established by the State Government, the Melbourne City Council would have to hold a City wide by-election to replace Singer if he stood down. Costing the City 100's of thousands of dollars. Garry Singer effectively is holding the City Council to ransom.

Clearly something has to be done. The State Government against all advice opted for a direct election system but in doing so failed to properly consider issues related to filling any casual vacancies. Under the current rules if Singer resigns within 6 months of the next election the City Council can elect a a fellow councilor to fill any vacancy in the Deputy Lord Mayor's position but if the position is made vacant before 6 month then a by-elections has to be held.

The system of filling casual vacancies need review and changing. It is incumbent on Local Government Minister, Candy Broad, to change the City of Melbourne Act to permit the City Council to appoint a replacement. Failing that the Direct election system should be abandoned.

The Herald Sun reports "Cr Singer last year pleaded guilty to financial misconduct as a solicitor.
He admitted to withholding 116 cheques totaling $154,000, some for up to five years. The money should have been paid to barrister and professional witnesses. The Legal Profession Tribunal fined Cr Singer $10,000 with $8000 costs.

In 1999, he was found guilty of professional misconduct for "grossly excessive" overcharging of a client involved in a personal injuries case.

The latest revelations raise more doubts as to his suitability to remain in office.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

City in Crises

City Council to pay subsidies for businesses to set-up shop as City retailers relocate to aviod Council's 'War on Cars'

Melbourne City Council in recognition that the City is facing a crises of confidence and a decline in reading will soon be paying selective businesses to set-up shop in the City Centre.

The Age Business report 15 February.

Whilst the City Council looks to advice form overseas consultants to tell them what everyone else has known for the last decade. (See the article by Arnold Zable on Melbourne's Museum development and associated planning issues written in 1996 reprinted below)

The report which will be released in April recommends that Melbourne promote it boutique lane shops and that the City Council pay a bounty in the form of a subsidies to attract the "right type" of business for the City.

We look forward to this report to see if it has identified the true reason why Melbourne retail is in decline.

What the report does not address is that the a serious of bad strategic planning decisions by successive Melbourne City Council and State and Governments are slowly killing off retail trade in the City Centre.

Bourke Street is no longer the center of family entertainment, the museum is no longer in the City center, the city no longer caters for the family day out and adult-sex-shops and peep show venues dominate our main Street.

To add to the City's woes the Council's war on cars is beginning to have a serious effect on retail trade with traders reporting they have had enough with the cost of doing business in the City outstripping the profits with customers giving the City a miss in favour of the suburban shopping complex.

As business begin to vacate the city centre property values will begin to decline.

Eventually Myers will have to do more then just offer up free-space to innovative designers with the City store sales and profoits continue to drop-off. How long will it be before Myers down sizes and goes the way of the other big retail outlets that once dominated our City retail precinct?

The City Council, oblivious to reality, spends more time wining dinning and living the good life then trying to reduce operating costs.

John So and Co spend up big

32 Million Dollars spent on Games and $170,000 on free tickets for Councillors, Staff, invitees and hangers-on

John So spends up Big using ratepayers money to fund Councillors, Staff and guests.

The Herald sun reports that the City Council will have spent 32 Million dollars on the Commonwealth Games.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Much more had been spent not only by this council but also the previous two Councils including free trips to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Trips during and after the Manchester games in London and staff have also been spending big visiting various sporting events around the world all attributed to the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

If there were Gold medals on offer for the most perks and less then the City Council would be a major contender. No accountability and no shame.

Like pigs with snorts in the trough eating cream.

John So and his fellow Councillors and senior staff have been living a International jet-set playboy like millionaire businessman lifestyle at ratepayers expense. $800.00 a night 5 star accommodation, fist class business travel costing $20,000 a week. Last year the Council spent $400,000 in overseas trips alone.

"Melbourne City Council will spend $170,000 on 728 Games tickets and spots in the lavish, 16-seat hospitality box with most tickets going to hangers-on" reports the Herald Sun

The Melbourne City Council, forever seeking to avoid disclosure and accountability, has consistently refused to release details of invitees, including who will take up 37 opening ceremony tickets costing $590 each with Chinese guests receiving the lions a share of invitations on offer. ( And I thought Hong Kong was no longer part of the Commonwealth)

No one in the Council seams to knows what is going on and or how much it is really costing the City. David Pitchford, Melbourne City Council CEO, reports 21 delegates from Tianjin had accepted invitations, but Cr So last night claimed it was only 12. (Who is telling the truth). Seems like our communist siblings are also into free junkets when they are on offer.

Quarter of a million dollars in contingency funding above and beyond the money already spent and allocated. Council staff will be treated to city accommodation for the Games, costing $13,000. (Don't they have homes?)

Meanwhile Staff have been distracted from their normal duties with their attention focused on the 2 week Games event next month.

Comments reported in the Herald-sun allude to John So and his fellow Councillors looking to impress in the hope of securing reciprocal invites to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

John So and the City Council are up for re-election in November 2008 and given the bill they are racking up I doubt if any of them will be re-elected but John is hoping to scam a few more benefits before he hands over the gold chains and robe (We're still not sure about who owns the possum skin coat)

Meanwhile the City Council continues to avoid full disclosure of the costs associated with internal catering, inbound missions and the cost of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Limousines estimated to be all up costing ratepayers all up over one million dollars a year. It would have to be one of the most corrupt governments in Australia with the amount of money they spend avoiding accountability getting well into the 100's of thousands of dollars.

The City Council should come clean and publish on it's internet site a full account of Games expenditure for all to see and let them be the judge if the excesses of our Lord Mayor, Councillors and staff can be justified.

Have no fear if they continue to abuse the system and refuse to publish the information we will make an FoI application and raise this issue again around budget time. The can continue to waste Council's funds and resources but they will in the end be held to account.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Melbourne Museum

A mistake in strategic planning, design and development. An opportunity lost

City in crisis - Melbourne's new State Museum as mistake putting at risk our heritage, Our Gardens and long term interests

[Archive publication September 1996]

Melbourne's economic decline, aided and abetted by State Government and the impedance of the City of Melbourne, continues at an alarming rate. At a time when we need clear strategic goals and positive action our Community leaders continue to burry their heads in sand and walk away rather then address the situation. Melbourne retail activity already suffering from lure and expansion of major regional shopping centres now faces, potentially greater blow, another nail in its waiting coffin. The recent decision to extend trading hours along with the continual removal of major cultural and administrative activity from the City Centre will severely impact on Melbourne which will be left standing not as a centre of excellence, the focus of cultural activity, the arts, entertainment and heritage but as a City devoid of soul and character servant to the interests and domination of the new Casino culture.

Melbourne new Casino with over 20 cinemas and theatres and major retailing space will result in a dramatic shift of economic activity. The Bourke Street entertainment precinct, already suffering from the expansion of suburban cinema complex, will be unable to remain viable or compete with the new facilities provided to lure customers to the new City Casino complex. The concentration of economic activity and wealth centred on Melbourne's new Gateway "The Crown Casino" and its resulting power and influence will be like no other seen in Victoria. Melbourne must address and come to terms with the need to implement strategic planning.

Where is the commitment to our City, what is the vision for the future. The 'Kennett' State Government having been in office for over four years has failed to generate real confidence in the future of our City. With an large number of vacant development sites now existing within the heart of the City, each site having a proposed planned hotel, none of which in spite the State Government reassurance and propaganda have proceeded beyond the concept stage. Do we really believe that Melbourne needs and can support 24 more 5 star hotel complexes?

The State Government is contributing further to the City's planning crises by failing to strategically allocate community resources where they will benefit Melbourne the most. Instead of centrally locating major civic buildings and institutions within the heart of the city on one of the many vacant bomb sites the Government continues to add to the city's decline by using valuable park land as cheap development sites. Destroying further the heart, soul and character of our City once renowned as the 'Garden State'. The proposal to relocate the State Museum to the Carlton Gardens on the outskirts of the City is one example that clearly demonstrates the need for strategic planning and development. The State Museum currently located in Swanston Street generates over 600,000 visits to the City centre. It is estimated that the proposed new State Museum will generate over 1 Million visitors per year.

The economic impact of the relocation of 1 Million visitors from the Swanston Street along with the expected decline the Bourke Street entertainment precinct and retail activity is considerable. RMIT and the State Library will remain as the only Civic institutions left in what was once Melbourne's Civic centre. Melbourne is in desperate need of commitment and continuing cultural identity and given that there are a number of vacant sites ideally situated along the Swanston Street corridor why is the Government pursuing the relocation of the State Museum to the Carlton Gardens as opposed to retaining the Museum within the heart of the City.

The new Museum instead of being located where it can do the most good is to be located where it will do the most harm. The allocation of over 250 million dollars for a proposed development of the State Museum would go a long way in reinforcing and providing long term commitment to a city. If the Government is not prepared to consider the proper allocation of resources and commitment to the City Centre how can it expect to instil public confidence in the City's future.

We must ensure that the development of our City is in balance with social and economic needs that fulfil the aims and objectives of a healthy and culturally vibrant City. Our City Councillors and Community leaders must take on the role of facilitator and engage the community in discussion and debate about the future planning and development of our City. Out State Government and State Institutions would better serve the interests of the State if it stopped and consulted with the community before making irreversible discussions that are not in the communities best interest. We should all head the motto embedded in the foyer of the State Parliament reads,. "In the absence of counsel the people fall but in the multitude of counsellors their is safety" .

Anthony van der Craats
September 30, 1996



Comment: Already the Museum is suffering with attendance rates below expectations and blow out in budgets. (This and more was forewarned) The City Council only this week proposed a trouist bus to help feed tourists to the Carlton Museum site. Had the City Council shown true integrity and te lieks of Bamboo Rob and Peter McMullin not betrayed Melbourne teh Musuem could have been located at the centre of Melbourne incorporated into an expanded Federation Square. - Opportunity lost and a monument to Jeff Kennetts many disasters in planning Melbourne's future.

Credit should go to John Brumby, who following a meeting with Trevor Huggard, Sigmund Jorgensen and myself, supported the proposal that Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Buildings be nominated for World Heritage Listing - the rest is history.

Sustaining Dinners

City of Melbourne asked to fund migrating dinner at $45,000

Geoff Lawler, City of Melbourne Sustainability (sic) Director, is proposing that the City of Melbourne spend $45,000 on a dinner for up to 500 Migration conference delegates, to be held in October 2007,and if that is too steep then an alternative proposal suggest the Council spend $18,000 for a piss-up cocktail drinks night.

There is no wonder the City of Melbourne does not want to publish the costs of its internal catering bill. The conference according to Joe Groher, Manager Financial Services, will be funded via normal budget processes. (Which 2007/8 budget Item in would that be Joe?)

The conference is consistent with Council’s policy aims expressed in City Plan 2010 for the
City of Melbourne to be an inclusive, engaging, innovative and connected city and society. (I guess just about any event would be deemed consistent the aims of City Plan 2010)


The cost of any piss-up or state dinner should be paid for by the Event organisers or if it is considered necessary by the State or Federal Government who are also sponsoring this event.

Mind you the City of Melbourne appears not taken into consideration that some of the delegates may be from Islamic Countries or other cultures that don't drink alcohol.

The City of Melbourne if anything should put on a BBQ sizzle/Meat-pie spread and something light for vegetarians (budget $2-3,000) and stop wasting ratepayers money picking up the tab for every circus or event that comes to town. (The cost to the environment for this event approx 5,000 trees worth of Co2 emissions).

The $45,000 proposed expenditure could be better spent on more sustainable events and needs.

UPDATE:

Pigs with snouts in the trough. Ratepayers money to burn

Melbourne City Council without debate appoved $45,000 direct subsidy for a conference dinner. This sets a precidnets wheer every circus that comes to town and every event ofanisier can excpect Coucnil to fork out up to $90 a head for a free meal. We will have great insterest in reminding the community of theextent of Council's generousity when it comes to requests for assistance and subsidies.

Up until now Cr Clarke had a reasonable record of spending Council's funds wisely. Shame Council Shame.

5.4. International Metropolis Conference, Melbourne, 8-12 October 2007

The purpose of this report was to recommend that Council agree to sponsor a dinner reception for delegates to the International Metropolis 2007 Conference, to be held in Melbourne from 8-12 October 2007.

Resolved:

That the Community and Culture Committee recommend to Council that it resolve to sponsor a dinner reception for delegates to the International Metropolis 2007 Conference, to be held in Melbourne from 8-12 October 2007.

Moved: Cr Clarke
Seconded: Deputy Lord Mayor, Gary Singer
Carried unanimously

Friday, February 10, 2006

City under siege

John So loses support as State Government considers its position and begins to distance itself from the City Council

Melbourne City Council continues to come under attack as Melbourne's business community begin to loose confidence in the Lord Mayor and the administration of the City Council. John So extraordinary long honeymoon has come to an end as he faces the reality of running a city.

Herald-Sun 9Feb2006

More and more City business leaders are beginning to question the Lord Mayor's policy and directions. John So's hypocritical and ill considered 'war on cars' is seriously undermining public confidence in his ability to manage Melbourne's future development amidst concern that the City Council unjust tax on inner-city car-parks and increases in the cost of on-street car-parking is beginning to bite as
city consumers begin to give the city the miss.

How long can they keep milking the cash cow before it stops giving milk

The selective taxation on Melbourne businesses and city commuters and associated increased cost to the consumers seriously undermine the viability of Melbourne's retail sector with suburban shopping complexes being the main beneficiary.


The Herald-Sun reports that business are already planning to shut up and move shop to another location.

John So is quick to reclaim the title of Lord Clown as the City Council is fast becoming beyond a joke.

Lord Clown and his Deputy hold on to their cars as the Council refuse to disclose cost to ratepayers - Claims of hypocrisy as the Lord Mayor advocates other to abandon their cars.

Whilst John So advocates a tax on City commuters to ease congestion the
Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor continue to zealously hold on to their Council funded Limousines, with the City Council last Tuesday refusing to disclose or make public the full cost for the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's cars which include free petrol, free inner city car-park and the Lord Mayor's Diver (estimated to be worth over $250,000 per year)

What are the benefits from the Council's unjust double-taxation

Although Melbourne is still yet to finalise its transport policy the City Council
has already allocated the spoils of the new tax which is a bit like pulling the horse before the car.

The car-parking tax, supposedly designed to ween Melbourne off cars and help ease inner City congestion is being used to establish a
free tourist bus in direct competition to the free tourist-tram and existing 'private' service providers. The Tourist bus along with other proposed transport solutions are ill-considered. As the Herald-Sun editorial correctly points out Melbourne needs to first improve its public transport before providing a free ride for 1/2 day tourists. Tourists also use public transport.

Melbourne's transport policy was developed in isolation with the needs of Motorcycle Riders and other transport users not consulted. The fact that the Council's policy ignores the needs of Motorcycle riders altogether is an indictment against the Council administration along with the our City Councillors who are ultimately responsible for the management of the City.

The longer the City Council continue down this road the more the State Government will distance themselves from the Lord Mayor and Town Hall and Melbourne begin to face the problems associated with having a directly elected Lord Mayor and a
City Council that is unaccountable and oblivious to reality and living in fools paradise.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Council's avoidance and censorship

Finance Committee minutes confirms Councillors' refusal to publish reports that are critical of the Council

Minutes of the City of Melbourne Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) committee meeting held last Tuesday (February 7, 2006) confirm that the city of Melbourne did not consider in detail the recommendation contain in the various items of correspondence

6. GENERAL BUSINESS (agenda item 6)

6.1 Response to Correspondence Received by Mr Anthony van der Craats

The Chair referred to the matter previously raised in relation to the correspondence of 4 February 2006 (which incorporated information contained in correspondence dated 24 December 2005) 3rd, 2nd and 1st February 2006 received from Mr Anthony van der Craats. The Chair, Cr Shanahan, moved the following motion: “That the Finance and Corporate Performance Committee note the correspondence and include in quarterly travel reports to Committee a register of in-bound travel funded by Council.” Cr Snedden seconded the motion.

The motion was put and carried unanimously.

Copies of correspondence was circulated to Councillors but the Council in a deliberate attempt of avoidance refused to publish the reports and make them available to the public. WHY?

Committee chairman Councillor Brian Shanahan has failed to provide an explanation. Missing in the documentation and deliberations of the Committee are recommendations for the City of Melbourne to publish expenses related to in-house catering and the cost associated with the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Council funded limousines. Clearly the Council does not want this information made public - what is it the are trying to hide that they go to extraorindary lengths to avoid?

Whilst the City Council has agreed to publish in-bound travel expenses funded by the Council the full costs of in-bound missions will not be disclosed with the cost of travel being a small part of the overall cost of in-bound missions.

Why did the Council agree to publish limited information on in-bound missions but refused to publish travel costs associated the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Limousines and Council's in-house catering bill?

The City of Melbourne continues to deny the public access to information in what is seen as an ongoing abuse of process.

The public have a right to know the full costs and details of council expenditure. The question that is outstanding is the City of Melbourne still intending to produce a report on the full cost of In-bound Missions and will that report be tabled in an open and public meeting?

Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley in December 2005 moved a motion that the in-bound mission report as requested by Cr Snedden be referred to a secret 'illegal' meeting of Council behind closed (Shame Fraser Shame). The holding of secret meetings is contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Act and the principle of open and transparent governance which require that all public documents and deliberations of Council be made in open public meetings.

Whilst it has been noted that Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley has expressed regret in moving the motion in december he never the less has failed to re-address this issue and continues, along with other Councillors, to support the suppression of reports and documents that expose the true cost of governance of the City of Melbourne. Is this the quaility of Governance we can expect form the Greens should they be elected to State Parliament? Given their current performance I do not think they will make it.

The report and recommendations that have been withheld by the City Council outlined a number of concerns related to errors and omissions in the Council's published data and included recommendations protect the integrity of the Council's financial registers against possible fraud and deception.

The Council Travel Register in its current form is an electronic whiteboard open to abuse and misuse with staff able to alter, remove or delete information without detection.

The report recommended that Council include a Record Id number (Which is normal professional practice) to assist in the proper audit of the register information and to help prevent misuse, abuse and possible fraud. Previous copies of the Travel Register have been modified to remove undisclosed expenses related to former Councillor Anthony Nicholson's St Petersburg 'mid summer' tour, with $8,000.00 still missing from the published Councillor expense statements.

The City Council continue to avoid accountability as opposed to accepting responsibility by talking action to prevent ongoing misuse and abuse of the Council administration who are engaged in a excerise of cover-up and denial. Until they address the issue in a professional and proper manner the problems identified will not disappear. Advodiance and denial is not the answer.

Tuesday's Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) committee meeting also failed to publish and consider items of correspondence in relation to item 5.7 "Council's Long Stay Car Park Levy" and its "Transport policy".

If the Melbourne City Council can not demonstrate its ability to self-govern and continues to avoided addressing this issue in a proper and responsible manner then the only other alternative is to refer the issue to the State office of the Auditor General and Ombudsman for review and further consideration.

Financial game play

City of Melbourne quarterly budget delivers more questions then answers

The City of Melbourne quarterly report has some worrying trends and raises more questions then answers. Question that the Council appear to have not considered.

The report shows a significant decline in budget expectations in Parking revenue and a massive increase in employment costs.

Parking (Fees) Income - (1000's)
The City Council in its report has dismissed the below budget expectations as a result of the recent increase in on street parking fees (which were increased twice (52%) over the last six months. The Council's report claims this is a backlash from consumers who are no longer using on-street parking.



3.3 Parking Fees ($1.823m) Unfav

Parking Fees are $1.823m unfavourable and $1.946m relates to lower use of on-street parking. Transition issues with the new contracts for coin collection and meter maintenance together with fee increases for on-street parking from $2.40 to $3.00 per hour (This was the second increase in six months from $2.40 to $3.50 per hour) in the CBD and $3.80 to $6.80 per day in outer areas, increasingly high fuel costs, and the loss of revenue on the day of the demonstration against the Federal Government’s IR legislation contributed to this unfavourable variance. Slightly offsetting this reduction in on-street parking revenue is the favourable variance of $0.150m reported for off-street parking. The City Square car park occupancy rate is higher than budget because of lower hourly fees and the Lion King show.




More information is required to justify and quantify the above.

If there has been a significant decrease in consumer on-street parking as a result of the recent increase in fees then where have they gone?

Question we would like answers to include

  • What extent of change in the percentage of parking space vacancy rates sector by sector that backup this claim?
  • What is the extent of customer shift from on-street parking to off-street parking and what percentage of that was related to City Council managed and non Council manged off-street parking facilities?
  • Was there an increase in public transport patronage during this period?
  • If not could it indicate a shift in consumer choice away from the City to alternative suburban shopping centres?
  • If the letter is the case then what impact is that having on Melbourne business/retail community?
  • Clearly the out going costs of parking are a consideration in consumers making a choice where to shop and stop.
  • Could the City Council's policies be having a negative impact on the economic viability of the City?
  • What percentage of the loss was due to Council's inefficiency in transition of implementing the change over to the new fee increases?
  • Could money have gone missing in the process, misappropriated in the transition period?

The City Council runs a serious risk of creating a gated community without the gate. A city where only the rich, trendy and well heeled can afford to visit the city centre. How long until businesses, concerned about the increasing overheads and quality of Councils service decide enough is enough and move to other less expensive locations as the ANZ bank were/are considering? How long can Myers continue to survive in the City Centre before it too goes the same way as other major retail outlets while increased costs to the consumer continue to drive customers away from the City and into the lower cost, easier access, suburban shopping complexes? How long can you keep milking (taxing) the cash cow before the cow stops giving milk?

The general statements provided in the quarterly reports are insufficient. The Council must provide more information and statistical data to explain in more detail the reasons behind this below budget outcome.


Employment (Costs) Expenditure - (1000's)
The Council report also shows an alarming increase in the cost of employment that goes well beyond the issue of a 1% variance in the anticipated outcome of negotiated salary increases (from a budget of 4% to actual cost of 5%)

Questions

  • Is the 5% increase across the board?
  • Does the 5% increase in staffing costs automatically apply to contract employment fees and other benefits paid for by the Council to senior management, the very same people that negotiated the rate of pay increase?
  • Who many extra staff have been engaged during this period and how does the 1 % variance equate into what appears to be a budgeted $6 Million to just under $8 Million during the quarter?
  • What efforts if any has Council made to reduce employment costs and the associated burden on Council expenditure?
More question then answers.

Were these and other questions raised by the elected Council when considering this report? We certainly expect more information in the next quarterly results.

Lost in Cuckoo land

Council divorced from reality avoiding accountability - John So time to go

The Editorial in Today's Herald-Sun (Printed in full below) is confirmation that Melbourne Direct Election of Lord Mayor is failing as is the policy of Our City Council and it's future direction. A Council that is lost in Cuckoo land devoid of integrity and responsibility. A Council that avoids accountability and is full of hypocracy. Standby for the John So - Time to Go.

Wiser council now needed

09feb06

THE Herald Sun today reveals how the Melbourne City Council transport policy is divorced from reality.

Readers' opinions of the city's public transport are that in its present appalling state it is not an acceptable alternative to the motor car.


Yet the latest manifestation of the council's anti-car policy makes it clear that when it come to transport policies, the Town Hall is in cloud cuckoo land.

The MCC's "experts" suggest lowering the speed limit to 40km/h, forcing cars out of dedicated bus lanes and stripping more road space from motorists in favour of pedestrians and cyclists.

The council also suggests blocking new long-term parking spaces and offering residents discounted public transport fares if they give up parking permits.

Long-term parkers are already hit by the State Government's unfair parking impost.

But as we report today, the public is angry over the alternative – the city's expensive, unpunctual, and filthy public transport.

As we have noted before, the council, in league with the State Government, is embarking on social engineering under pressure from special interest groups.

Instead we need a solution that leaves people with their right to choose whichever form of transport suits them best

Council beat-up over parking dispute

Did the administration misuse and abuse their authority?

The article published on the front page of the Age implies some wrong doing over Cr Peter Clarke's intervention on a parking fine dispute attribute.

Liberal councillor tried to quash parking fine for MP's wife - National

There is nothing wrong with a Councillor seeking to have redressed an injustice in the application of a parking fine. The explanation provided by Angela Kotsiras is reasonable and understandable.

I am sure many commuters are caught out from time to time on pressing the wrong button or selecting the wrong parking bay. I know I have on a number of occasions.

Depending on the design of the meter and the circumstances it should be possible for the City of Melbourne to verify any claim.

In respect to Cr Clarke's involvement there is nothing wrong in him seeking to provide representation when requested to do so by an aggrieved person.

Councillor Clarke does not decide on the outcome of any review. It could be claimed that Councillor Clarke may have asserted undue influence but such a claim would be false as Council staff have to deal with this sort of complaint every working day.

What is of concern is how and under what circumstances this information was made available to the Age.

We need to ask was there any bias or political motive behind the leaking of confidential information and was the Council's Governance Department responsible for targeting Cr Clarke.

It is more then likely that this information was deliberately leaked by the Council Governance Department or an aggrieved Council employee as some form of retribution and payback.

Councillor Clark is the only Councillor challenging the City Council administration on a range of issues, asking some of the questions that need to be asked but go unanswered. (There are also some questions that he does not ask but should)

The City Council has a culture of self protection and are sensitive to criticism of public disclosure. Councillor Clarke certainly has ruffled some feathers in Clown Hall and in doing so has made some enemies as a result.

This is not the first time the Council administration have taken such action. I have witnessed members of Council staff lie in a court of law, be it intentionally or unintentionally, to the point where a magistrate came close to having the member of staff charged with giving false evidence.
Their motive to band together and protect their fellow members of staff, ignoring any professional duty or principles of natural justice. It is incumbent on the CEO, David Pitchford, to make sure it is the last time.

The City of Melbourne administration is renowned for this sort of abuse and misuse of Council resources and their authority.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free Booze, Food and no expense

City Council refuses to disclose cost of Council's wining and dining at ratepayers' expense

Melbourne City Council on Tuesday, February 7, failed to consider a report calling on the City council to provide a financial breakdown of departmental costs for in-house catering (food, beverages and free alcohol) which is believed to cost ratepayers' around one million dollars.

City of Melbourne private club - free food and booze paid for by the ratepayer. No acountability required.

The City of Melbourne provides Councillor's and Senior Staff with a fully-stocked top shelf bar, free snacks and regular 3 course meals. Whilst some Councillors regular report on the poor quality and standard of food served by the City Council's caterers the costs for this service are not cheap but remain hidden.

Censorship and ongoing avoidance of disclosure


The City Council is so keen to protect their fringe benefits that they refused to consider or even make copies of the report available for public scrutiny. The report was listed for consideration on Tuesday's Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) meeting, chaired by Labor Councilor Brian Shanahan. The report called on the City Council to publish a break down of the financial cost of in-house catering and the provision of alcohol as well as the costs asscoiated with the Lord Maypr and Deputy Lord Mayor's Council funded Limousine.

Ignorance is bliss

In previous years this information was readily available and published in the monthly financial statements. The Council no longer provides this information. It is understood that not even the elected Council are aware of the full extent of costs of in-house catering and the cost of the Limousines.

The City of Melbourne maintain a multimillion dollar accounting system and we understand that a break-down of in-house catering and transport cost is readily available but the Council continue to go to extraordinary levels to prevent this information being made public. WHY? Councillors are unaware of the full extent of costs. (One Councilor was reported as saying they were not aware as to full the extent of costs associated with Council's staff overseas and interstate travel - over $400,000 in the last 12 months - having only just found out when the Council finally published its Travel Register last week)

Too Drunk to Govern

The Alcohol bill alone is in the 10's of thousands of dollars as Councillors and Senior staff help themselves to a free drink or two or more.

We fail to see why ratepayers' should be paying for Councillors and staff drink tab. It certainly is not part of their duties. Were not saying that the Council should not host the occasional Town Hall dinner/function where alcohol is served but Council certainly should not be providing a fee bar - all you can drink service during the working day. There are questions of responsibility, liability and legalities. There are numerous regular reports of Councillors being too drunk to fulfill their duties or even drive home as a result of a day at the office.

Our City Council should stop trying to avoid accountability and inform the public of the true cost of in-house catering and Council's alcohol expenses.

Car cost free city

Melbourne City Council refuse disclosure and publication of Lord Mayors and Gary Singers car costs

The City of Melbourne Transport policy has been put on hold and will be subject to further community review. The City Council last week releases its transport policy advocating a car free city.

A car fee city that is unless you are the Lord Mayor or Deputy Lord Mayor.

Our City Councillors, who all receive generous subsidies and benefits from the City Council, are required to declare the costs to ratepayers associated with local travel, these costs are published on the Councillor's quarterly expense statements. That is all councillors except the Lord Mayor, John So and Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer.

Both the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor are provided with an all expenses paid limousine, the Lord Mayor has a chauffeur and the Deputy Lord Mayor is self-drive.

The Herald Sun in 1994 reported that John So's Chauffeur was on a salary of over $100,000.00 per year. The overall costs to the Council for the Lord Mayor's luxury car was around $200,000 a year (including petrol, maintenance, garage and driver) The costs associated with the Deputies car was around $60,000.00 per year.

On Tuesday this week the City of Melbourne including Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley and Committee Chairperson and Labor's Brian Shanahan, refused to consider a report calling for teh full disclosure of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor limousines be included and published in the Councillor's expense statements.

Sadly our councillors do not want to be held accountable and continue to go to extraordinary efforts to avoid publication and disclosure of the cost and the true amount paid in subsidies to the Lord Mayor and Councillors. In order to avoid accountability the Council even refused to publish or make available copies of the report and recommendations for public scrutiny.

Hypocrisy is alive and screaming in the City of Melbourne

In the meantime the City of Melbourne continues to advocate a policy of double-taxation for Melbourne's commuters whist our Lord Mayor, Senior Staff and Councillor's continue to enjoy the benefits of "free car parking" in the City (cost undisclosed).


And if you thought the Greens were about honest transparent governance and integrity think again.

Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley, who during the last election campaign advocated for the scrapping of the Lord Mayor's Car remained silent and did nothing to fulfill his promise to the electorate. Cr Fraser is renowned for having advocated illegal closed information sessions to avoid further public disclosure of Council's expenses.

More soon...

Democracy dead and buried

Melbourne City Council censorship on public submissions seeking disclosure of Councilor's expenses

Open and Transparent Governance in Melbourne is non-existent with the City Council going to extraordinary steps to avoid accountability and responsibility.

The City Council has now embarked on an act of censorship by refusing to publish reports and public submissions that are critical of the Council's administration and governance.

The City of Melbourne administration with the consent of Cr Brian Shanahan, Chairman of the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance Committee, failed to publish a submission presented to the Council concerning Council expenses and correspondence criticising the Council's recently published transport policy.

The Melbourne City Council has abandoned its duty and responsibility to maintain an open and transparent system of governance.

First there was the decision of Council moved by Greens Councillor Fraser Bindley to deny public access to documents outlining the cost of inbound missions (hosting of overseas visitors) by referring a report to be considered by the Council behind closed doors at a secret meeting, now the City of Melbourne goes one step further by imposing censorship on public submissions.

This unjustified act of censorship is outrageous and corrupt.

Council clearly do not want to be held accountable and are now prepared to go to the extraordinary efforts of censorship to avoid disclosure of their expenses and criticism of the Council's administration.

Council has a duty and obligation to consider these issues

The report and submission to Council made a number of recommendations including a request that information on the costs of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines be included in the Councillor's expense statements . Currently these costs are excluded from the Councillors expense statements which are false and misleading, the public have a right to know the full extent of costs and subsidies paid to Councillors.

The City Council and chairman have closed ranks and have demonstrated their continuing abuse of process and administration.

The submission was listed for discussion on the Council's agenda but the Council failed to publish the content of the submission or consider in detail the recommendations. (copy available here). The report was a follow up and response to information disclosed following the publication of the council's Travel Register outlining cost associated with Councils overseas and interstate Travel.

Normally all reports and submissions to be considered by the Council are published with the Council's agenda and made available to the public but on this occasion the Council refused to publish the associated documents or make them available at the public meeting held yesterday.

"A lack of openness, transparency, information and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes"

No explanation provided.

A letter requesting an explanation and the reasons for Council's failure to publish the documents listed on the agenda was forwarded to Cr Shanahan last Friday.

Council on Tuesday noted the report, which was not made available to the public, the council also failed to consider in detail the recommendations and issues raised. There are serious issues that continue to go unaddressed. Council administration, who were the subject of criticism in the report, falsely claimed that the report was defamatory.

Clearly the Council has something to hide and does not want the public to know

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Conflict of Interest

Former Deputy Clown questions conflict of Interest

Melbourne City Council's former Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter McMullin (alias Peter McClown) is in the news again this time in his new stomping ground and new role as Geelong's Mayor.

The Age - Geelong mayors back inquiry

Cr Peter McMullin, who is also supposedly a lawyer having studied Law at Melbourne University, told The Age that the conflict of interest provisions in the act were unclear. "The legal environment is incredibly confused, as to what's an interest, what's a conflict of interest, a pecuniary interest."

We would have thought it was pretty straight forward and that given his years of experience as a Lawyer and Local Government practitioner he would have had some Idea by now. (But according to comments made by John Howie from Howie and Maher who took over representation of Community Radio station 3CR you can never tell.)


If in doubt don't leave it out.

If you have a pecuniary interest either direct or indirect then there is a potential for a conflict of Interest. An interest could come in the form of direct payments or indirect payment such as receiving kick backs, gifts or donations.

The provisions of Victorian Local Government Act 1989 endeavour to set out what those responsibilities are but, as is often the case with Lawyers when their clients who are caught between a rock and a hard place or in the case of Geellong a community and a developer, they never know.

This question is asked all the time down that City of Melbourne Clown Hall.

The City of Melbourne has a clear cut policy where the Council does not provide legal advise to Councillors in respect to issues of conflict of interest provisions.

A sound policy and one that should apply in all cases where personal legal advice is requested.

The City Council is not qualified to provide a free legal advisory service. Any decisions to seek personal legal advice should always be a decision of the elected Council as a whole and then only in the interest of the Council as a whole and not any individual councillor. In the case of a primary assessment advise should only be given with the consent of the relevant committee chairperson or in the course of responding to recommendations before Council . The problem being of course if the Council provides legal advice and that advice is later found to be defective (which was often the case with advice provided by Melbourne City Council's former legal governance officer, Alison Lyons) is that it leaves the City Council wide open to abuse and possible corruption and misuse of council's resources not to mention questions of professional liability.

Councillor McClown, who held the position of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor for one year before being dumped from the position in 1997, being a lawyer should know full well this fact.

We often wonder if McClown had a conflict of interest when he all of a sudden backed down and refused to support a call for the State Government to subject the then proposed Museum development in the Carlton Gardens to a proper planning process. (The motion lost by one vote)


To this day no satisfactory explanation has been provided by McMullin as to why he refused to support the motion. Had the Museum Development undergone a proper planning assessment the Museum might not have been built were it is today and would not be in the financial trouble it now finds itself i and Melbourne would have been that much better off.

The problems and accusations of conflict of Interest in Geelong is a one that has captured the attention of all Municipal Councils through out Australia and has spilled over into the bloggersphere. One suggestion that was logged is that Councillor McMullin should set an example and help put the issues under debate to rest by submitting a statutory declarations and
calling on his fellow councillors to do likewise.


In the mean-time we will along with the rest will watch with ever increasing interest the outcome.



Sunday, February 05, 2006

Scrap the Limo

Help Melbourne become a "Car Free" city. Campaign to scrap the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Limousines


Help support our campaign to



The Lord Mayor and our City Councillors should practice what they preach and set an example.

The Melbourne City Council should scrap the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Limousine and any council funded staff remuneration package/car lease agreements along with its "free-inner city Council car-park"

Each Councillor and senior staff member could be offered a free public transport pass and/or use of a Council bicycle.

Herald-Sun Poll (Dec 19):
Should ratepayers have to pay for councillors' cars?
Yes: 32 (4.0%)
No: 768 (96.0%)


Write to the City of Melbourne and express your views.

The Lord Mayor and Councillor's
City of Melbourne
Swanston Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Chinese Footy

Somehow I don't think it will take off. But Russia/Ukraine would

The City of Melbourne is tuning Chinese with reports that AusAid, the AFL and the City of Melbourne have dispatched an ALF ambassador to China.

Herald-Sun:AFL's punt into China by MATTHEW SCHULZ 05feb06

It seams everything John So does is orientated to one country with Melbourne's other sister cities missing out - will they have a team in the "Chinese province" of Tibet (I apologize now to the Tibetans no offence intended - I still remember well the Dali-Lama's visit to Melbourne and my good friend Helen who helped organise his visit.)

I am all in favour of taking the great game international - IFL (Provided it produces results)

If the AFL is serious then it should consider, while the price is low, setting up a league in Russia/Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia would the ideal place for our winter game. When I was in Poltava, Ukraine, I met up with a young sports journalist there and we got talking about Australia and AFL Football. The Grand Final was not too far off and I suggested he do a bit of research into the game. Whilst "chewing the salo" it turns out Football (alias soccer) in Ukraine is huge and there is real scope for Aussie rules also.

The owner of the Donetsk Football team loves Australia. He even has a green Kangaroo outside his club Domino in Donetsk. (I got into a little bit of trouble with a security guard as I was hugging this Kangaroo for a photo opportunity - but being the only Australian around for miles I got away with it.)

Seriously an AFL footy team would go down well in Ukraine/Russia. I can even think of a few names to get the ball flying.

Kiev Slavs, St Petersburg Saints, Moscow Demons, Siberian Tigers, Vladivostok Dogs, Odessa Dockers, Lviv Lyons, Crimean Cossacks


They already have the sports venues/stadiums (Some I think are big enough to hold an real footy Oval).

If the AFL are interested two million dollars over two years should help develop the game and`build up a good size league and team supporter base. Additional local sponsorship could help fund it from there. Money well spent. I am waiting their call

game on

Tuesday's missing report

Item 6.1 City of Melbourne Finance and Corporate Performance Committee Meeting - Tuesday February 7, 2006

The Lord Mayor and Councillors
City of Melbourne


Please find attached a copy information recently published on the City of Melbourne -Holding them to account blog http://melbournecouncil.blogspot.com

I wish to express concern that the Council administration had failed to publish a copy of my submission dated December 24, 2005 or a copy of any report pertaining to item 6.1 listed in the agenda for next Tuesday's Finance and Corporate Performance committee meeting.

How can the public know what matters are being discussed by the committee if the administration withhold
information?

Can you please publish and consider the attached article in association with item 6.1 and include a copy in the minutes of the meeting.

Yours sincerely

Anthony van der Craats
http://melbournecitycouncil.blogspot.com



Tuesday's missing report: Item 6.1 City of Melbourne Finance and Corporate Performance Committee Meeting - Tuesday February 7, 2006

Response to our letter dated December 24, 2005

The City of Melbourne Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) first meeting for the year meeting is on next Tuesday February 7, 2006

Missing from the agenda/reports is the response to my letter dated December 24th, 2005. ( I wonder why the response and a copy of my original letter was not included in the committee papers?). (More abuse and mismanagement). How can I or members of the public respond or make a submission if we are kept in the dark as to the Council response or what was asked of them?

For the record I have reprinted below the contents of the letter under discussion? We have since forwarded more items of correspondence on this topic which also has not been listed.

The letter sent in December raises a number of issues related to the publication of the Council's Travel Register and issues related to Council expenses. Such as the need to ensure that the Travel Register contains a Record ID number so as to assist in the audit of the Travel Register and avoid any misuse and wrong doing such as unauthorised removal or alteration of information previously recorded.

The Council's Travel Register is effectively an Electronic Whiteboard. Previously, before the days of the electronic media, the Council's Travel Register was written and recorded in a bound book. The new Travel Register is in the form of an excel spreadsheet print-out.


Our letter also expresses concern about the decision of the Council late last year to hold illegal behind closed door meetings. Councillor Fraser Brindley moved a motion that information related to the cost and expense of Council's in-bound missions be presented to a closed information briefing session as opposed to being tabled at an open Council committee meeting. So much for honouring the Greens' election pledge

"The Greens support the integrity of local government as an independent
level of government enabling full and active participation of the community
in governance of issues at the local level. Such governance should embrace
open and consultative decision - making, and provide for clear reporting of
Council’s activities." - November 2004

(Shame Fraser Shame)

This is one of the most offensive actions I have seen the Council do in a long time - and I have seen many offensive and highly questionable things done by the City of Melbourne - like the time they held a committee meeting to discuss the development of Federation Square and when myself and the media turned up to attend the meeting Cr Peter (McClown) McMullin quickly cancelled the meeting and held a private discussion instead. Alison Lyon's, Councils Legal Officer, failed to mention that the Local Government act requires all meeting of Council to be open to the scrutiny of the public. (Section 89)

It seams that the Council administration forget that they have a public responsibility and that meetings of Council are
supposed to be open and accessible to the public.


The Public have a right to know information related to the costs of Council's expenditure.



The original motion proposed by Cr. Fiona Snedden requested a report be tabled on the costs of Council's inbound missions. We congratulate Cr Snedden in requesting this information but we think this information should be made public and not just presented to Councillors in closed session at illegal meetings and our letter requests that this information be tabled at the March Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) meeting.

In addition we have requested that the costs of internal catering per department per month be and available
including a breakdown of costs involved in the supply of alcohol. We understand that such a report already exists but is never tabled at Council meetings.

We have also requested that the costs associated with the lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor's limousine be included and recorded in the Councillor expense statements (under the item Local Travel). It is wrong and misleading for the expense statements to not include this information. We would also like to know how much fuel is being consumed and hope that the costs also include the cost of free inner city parking at Town Hall.

Given that the City of Melbourne has recently resolved to make Melbourne a "car free city" we think they should start
by scraping the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's limousines.

(Note to Fraser Brindley: Please read the Greens' Policy Statement and commitment to the electorate. We are looking forward to you taking action to fulfil you election promises and scrap the Lord Mayor's car and driver. Whilst you are at it remove Council funded vehicles or lease agreements from any remunerations package offered to staff including free car-parking in the Council car park - after all we want a car free city - no?)


Anthony van der Craats
http://melbournecitycouncil.blogspot.com





- - Copy of missing letter dated December 24 --

The Lord Mayor and Councillors
City of Melbourne

Please find attached the latest posting on the "Melbourne City Council - holding them to account" blog for your information.
http://melbournecitycouncil.blogspot.com
I request that this letter along with the content printed below be referred to the next meeting of the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance Committee for listing and consideration.


In addition I request that the next meeting of the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance Committee consider the following recommendations:

1. Council in-bound missions Council review it decision to refer documents of management pertaining to council expenses on in-bound missions to the closed unofficial Councillor Information Exchange Session and that the management report detailing the expenses of in-bound missions be tabled in open session of the City of Melbourne's Finance and Corporate Performance committee. held in March 2006

2. Publication of the Council's Travel register

Council review its decision to publish the Council's Travel register on its internet site on a quarterly basis and recommend that Council publish the Travel register within 24 hours of any addition or update to the register.

further that


2.1 the Travel register be amended to include a record id number for each entry so as to assist in the identification and audit of the register to minimise any fraud, deletion or omission.

2.2 the Travel register include a break down of costs outlining the cost of travel, accommodation, conference fees and sundry expenses along with the allocated budget and reference to the instrument of authorisation approving the travel undertaken.

2.3 the Travel register in fulfilment to the Council's commitment of maintaining a sustainable environment include a
tabulated record of the estimated amount of Co2 emissions generated as a result of the travel undertaken by Council staff and Councillors. This information can ascertained by using a Co2 calculator readily available on the internet. such as Sustainable Travel International
https://www.myclimate.co.uk/STI/op_carbonoffsets_offset.html

3. Cost of in-house catering report

That a report be tabled in open public session at the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance committee meeting in March 2006 detailing in-house catering expenses for each department since December 1 2004 to March 1, 2006

4. Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Local travel expenses

4.1 That a report be tabled in open public session at the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance committee meeting in March 2006 detailing the costs associated with the lease, depreciation, maintenance, petrol consumption of the Lord Mayor's Limousine (including the salary of the Lord Mayor's driver) along with any other local travel expenses paid for by the City Council since December 1 2004 to March 1, 2006

4.2 That a report be tabled in open public session at the Council's Finance and Corporate Performance
committee meeting in March 2006 detailing the costs associated with the lease, depreciation, maintenance, petrol consumption of the Deputy's Lord Mayor's vehicle with any other local travel expenses paid for by the City Council since December 1 2004 to March 1, 2006

4.3 That the costs associated with the lease, depreciation, maintenance, petrol consumption of the Lord Mayor's
Limousine (including the salary of the Lord Mayor's driver) along with any other local travel expenses paid for by the City Council since December 1 2004 be listed and recorded in the published Councillor expense statements under the category of local travel.

4.4 That the costs associated with the lease, depreciation, maintenance, petrol consumption and the Deputy Lord Mayor's vehicle provided by the City of Melbourne along with any other local travel expenses paid for by the City Council since December 1 2004 be listed and recorded in the published Councillor expense statements under the category of local travel.


Should you require further information I can be contacted via return email

Yours faithfully


Anthony van der Craats
http://melbournecitycouncil.blogspot.com

Friday, February 03, 2006

Singer's expensive travel bill

Deputy Lord Mayor spends up big on entertainment, overseas and interstate travel - Information revealed yesterday

Singer's $36,000 travel bill

Herald Sun by Jen Kelly 03feb06 (Printed in full below)

GARY Singer's globetrotting costs have been exposed in full with documents revealing $36,563 spent on junkets in only seven months.

The Deputy Lord Mayor enjoyed at least five jaunts from April to October last year.

Documents dumped on the City of Melbourne website last night also show ratepayers spent almost $400,000 for trips by councillors and staff in the year to December 1.

Cr Singer travelled to Milan, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Perth, Canberra and Sydney.
In all, Melbourne's nine councillors spent $85,611 on junkets from February to October last year. But the greatest costs to ratepayers were trips by staff and directors, hidden until last night, including:

A $16,029 11-day trip for a council worker to London, Paris, New York and Birmingham as part of a "global retail study tour".
A $21,827 15-day trip for a staff member for a trade alliance in the US and "study tour" in Ireland.
A $16,163 19-day trip to London and Ireland in June and a $14,709 seven-day trip to the Montreal World Swimming Championships in July for the marketing director.

Separate documents released this week reveal the nine councillors notched up $140,000 in expenses in the 13 months since their election -- with Cr Singer by far the biggest spender.

The part-time deputy cost ratepayers $42,000 in expenses including travel. The hefty bill does not include Cr Singer's $45,000 annual allowance.

Council critic Anthony van der Craats said Lord Mayor John So and Cr Singer were set to break the previous council's record as the most expensive and highly travelled councillors in the state.

"The Lord Mayor and his deputy have already spent in their first year more then half of what was spent during the full term of the previous council," he said.

Cr Singer last night defended the spending. "Councillors incur expenses in discharging their responsibilities and they are entitled to be reimbursed for these expenses," he said in a statement. "My objective is to work in the best interests of Melbourne."

Report on the publication and management of the City of Melbourne's Travel Register

The Lord Mayor and Councillors
City of Melbourne


Dear Councillors

Report on the publication and management of the City of Melbourne's Travel Register

This report shows that the City of Melbourne has spent close to $400,000 in the past year on overseas and intestate travel exceeding the previous record of the cost of last years travel - No budgets not constraints.

The Travel Register is a public document and should be readily available for public inspection and scrutiny with publication on the Council's Internet site being an efficient and cost effective means of providing public access to public documents.

The associated costs and extent of avoidance and effort undertaken by the City Council administration to prevent the publication of this information is extraordinary. The estimated costs of the Council administration's avoidance mounts into the several 10's of thousands of dollars. It should have costed the Council nothing as this information is already required to be maintained and available to the public.


Comments

The Council's Travel Register is poorly managed

Data quality recorded on the Council's Travel Register was poor with double-entries, incorrect dates and inconsistent data recorded.

The design of the Travel Register is akin to an Electronic Whiteboard with data readily modified or deleted with no accountability or proper records. Without a sequential Record ID it is virtually impossible to audited or provide reassurance that information has not been unduly altered or removed.


Recommendations

The Council should review the management of its register with responsibility for maintaining this information removed from the Governance section and handed over to the Financial Accounts department.

Consideration should be given to recording register information in a database as opposed to a spreadsheet. This would allow for more secure design and more efficient management and reporting. This could be undertaken in house utilising existing staff resources and technology.

Council needs to set a budget of overseas travel for each department and for each trip. The allocated budget should be listed in the travel report and recorded on the Travel Register.

The name and date of authorisation of any overseas and interstate travel should be recorded on the register. This is currently done as a notation in relation to Councillor's travel but it could be better designed and managed.

Regular summary reports should be tabled at the Council's Finance Corporate Performance Committee Meetings
The Travel Register should provide a break down of costs (Accommodation, Travel, Communication, Conference Fees and sundry)

The Travel Register should be published on the Councils internet site within 24 hours of any updates, changes, or additions to the register.

I request that this report be tabled and considered at the next Council's Finance and Corporate Services Performance meeting.

Further that Council adopt a policy to ensure that all public documents are accessible and published on the Council's Internet site.

Should you require further Information I can be contacted via return email

Yours faithfully


Anthony van der Craats

http://melbournecitycouncil.blogspot.com