Chair of Canning Commissioners, Steven Cole, attached a statement to the usual highlights brochure produced at the adoption of the City’s 2015/16 budget .
Mr Cole should be commended for putting Canning’s true financial position on the record, and especially as Canning’s first new council in years is due to be elected in October.
CanningAccountability offers some reflections on Mr Cole’s statement:-
The City’s executive remain unwilling to take responsibility for the series of bungles that was Canning’s response to local govt reform, and which played a role in the Local Govt Advisory Board (LGAB) recommending Canning be ceased. There have been several questionable financial and strategic decisions made by this team, many of whom have been in place for years, and perhaps this should be taken in to consideration by a new council as it plans the future.
Commissioners placed at Canning in the last three years have a tendency to assign or infer blame for the City’s problems today on the former council, however the last three years have shown us it is too easy to blame 11 elected representatives for the operation and performance of a local govt authority as a whole – especially as the Local Govt Act was changed in 2009 to reduce a Council’s power from “directs and controls” to “governs”.
As recent posts have expressed here, here and here, problems with regard to conduct of activities and provision of information continue at Canning. Mr Cole’s assurance that the findings of the inquiries in to Canning “have now been formally acquitted through an independent consultant’s report [to the Minister]” is likely to be somewhat of a tick box affair, for the Minister for Local Govt to flourish as a fait accompli that Canning is “fixed”.
As with all councils, however, concerns build in the absence of an adequate amount of information.
Canning’s budget papers, for instance, leave a lot to be desired. The City continues to supply the minimum amount it has to under the Act, and could learn from other councils, such as Vincent, which produces more detail including breakdown of costs within departments and more justification for allocation of funds. The City might also consider opening itself up to more community involvement in its financial decisions by adopting the Town of Cambridge’s excellent practice of seeking public comment on its draft budget before adopting it.
Mr Cole goes on to declare Canning has become a political punching bag and “this must stop”, claiming “[These comments] can only properly be stopped by taking away the basis which give substance and oxygen to them”.
The City and staff could learn from this statement, as the community’s faith in its City is not strong ( only 6% of its eligible elector base came out to support its retention in Fight For Canning) and won’t be until the staggering amounts of money spent on staff are brought down to a more reasonable portion of the budget.
Placing a high premium on ensuring the community is kept informed in a full and frank fashion – no gloss, no up sell, no refusal to answer questions – will go a long way to ensuring the next council is not blamed wholly for the struggles of the future.
Commissioner Cole’s statement also seeks to encourage new and more people to run for council. CanningAccountability has already seen some of the election material planned by those wanting to nominate. Its predictable, unfortunately (bases candidacy on criticizing a council that has been gone for years, or bashing the Barnett Govt over the now defunct local govt reform). Perhaps its time to ask what has this got to do with the future? Will the new councillors be capable of doing what’s needed? That’s the real question.
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