Wednesday, May 07, 2008

John So head in the sand and hand in the public pocket

John So continues to spend spend spend whilst burying his head in the sand.

The State Government has also wiped it's hands clean and failed undertake a review of the City of Melbourne's representative model. Whilst every other Municipality is subjected to comprehensive review Melbourne has been excluded.

Its been just seven years since Melbourne narrowed its focus and adopted a direct election of its Lord Mayor.

Last year there was a half hearted proposal for the City of Melbourne to initiate it won representative review, A proposal that met with opposition from John So and was rejected on the casting vote of the Lord Mayor.

Why the city councillors that were supporting a review did not appeal directly to the State Government is anyones guess. After all it is the responsibility and determination of the State Government to undertake any serious independent review.

David Dunstan in today's Age has reflect on the issues that face Melbourne faces and the need to ensure that the City's governance meets the challenges it faces.

The largest and most central of them all, Melbourne City Council, instead of being made larger to give a lead, was made smaller and more ineffectual to prevent inner-city residents having any say over Melbourne's lucrative golden mile and inner region. Labor has been careful not to undo the pro-growth, pro-big-property stance of its predecessors. But for nine years it has taken the city for granted, simply assuming that it can absorb the growth to 4.5 million people. Now problems of housing affordability, traffic congestion and the inadequate contribution of the public transport system are upon us.

The proposal to create a greater City of Melbourne is not new but for various reasons has never been taken seriously. Jeff Kennett in fact went the other way and reduced the size of the Council to that of a small island.

There is an urgent need to review and expand the Cities boundaries.

The direct election model has failed to provide good governance and accountability.

John So has spent the Cities inheritance and family jewels. Come November he will also loose the support of a number of his collection or rubber stamps. It is expected that John will dump his Deputy Lord Mayor, Gary Singer, as team up with the third rate councillor David Wilson. Catherine NG, one of So's best performers. is expected to stand down leaving a serious gap in Johns ability to undertake even the most basic of tasks required by the City Council.

John So leadership is also under question.

John has failed to provide financial management or corporate governance. His ability to chair a meeting is left seriously lacking.

Whilst there is ongoing support and talk around the town hall for an urgent review of the City Council, reality is that both the Councillors and the State Government have left it too late to initiate a serious review.

At best we could hope that the State Government undertakes a ministerial review restore balance and strengthen the Council's accoutability and governance in the City Structure.

Lord Mayor, by default, is also the Council's chairman.

One proposal that should be considered and adopted is the need to separate the role of Lord Mayor and that of the Chairman of the Council.

When the State Government implemented a direct election model it did not pay sufficient attention to the functioning of the Council and did not consider to the role of chairman.

The chairman of any council should always maintain the support and confidence of the elected Council, the Chairman must be elected from and by the Council itself and not part and parcel of Lord Mayor's position.

The separation of the two roles and allowing the City Council to appoint the Council's chairperson of their own chopping would go a long way to strengthening the Council's governance and ability to hold the executive to account.

This one change is simple and logical and should be adopted without delay in the first week of the spring parliamentary session prior to the November Municipal election.

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