Council critics in full voice at community forum

ATTENDEES heard the shortfalls of the City of Greater Bendigo and areas where the council can improve at a community forum last night. 

About 35 people attended the meeting at the Strathdale Community Centre, including several councillors and candidates. 

Councillor Peter Cox and candidates Helen Leach, Wayne McKay and James Williams heard from organiser Alan Howard and council critic Ted Coleman, while two senior staff from the City of Greater Bendigo also attended.

Candidate Tim Bardsley arrived late to the forum, followed by Councillor Lisa Ruffell. 

Mr Coleman said certain aspects of council had been “disgraceful”, but noted the council did “many, many good things”.

“In every unit within council there are good staff,” he said. 

“Sometimes when you write about the council, people think you’re having a shot at people. 

“But I’m genuinely trying to find ways to improve the council.”

Mr Coleman called for an independent review of council finances every eight years, which was later supported by all candidates and councillors in attendance. 

He said the council only released satisfaction surveys when they were positive, and urged the body to “take the good with the bad”. 

He added that each resident paid about $3000 to the council each year through rates, fines, parking fees and other revenue. 

“Where else do you put $3000 and not call it into question?”Mr Coleman said. 

“I think more people should question what happens and I hope the new councillors have the courage to constructively question, look for improvements understand and seek new models and work constructively with senior staff.”

Cr Cox said he would like to see a more open council and welcomed an independent review. 

“I’ve talked for a number of years about an independent review... I’m very passionate about that,” he said. 

James Williams outlined his vision for the city, noting that more infrastructure was needed. Helen Leach said an independent review was “a great thing”, while noting the need for council transparency. 

Wayne McKay said best practice management and governance was needed in the council and Tim Bardsley said he “completely agreed” with the need for a review. 

Councillor Lisa Ruffell said she was “disappointed with a lot of things we’ve done so far” on the council, and said a review was needed to find any savings in the organisation.

The forum was organised so people could hear from council critics first-hand.

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