CITY of Greater Bendigo Eaglehawk Ward councillor Peter Cox has launched a stinging attack on his own council for not listing items on the public agenda.
“It is of grave concern when council agendas do not reflect the issues and discussion that councillors have had in Councillors’ Forum which are closed to the public,” he said.
“Two important issues have been discussed over the past fortnight with officer recommendations but they are not on the council meeting agenda.
“They include ‘Budget Policy for New Capital Works’ and ‘Improving the Way We Do Things’.
Cr Cox said the the new capital works policy was particularly important as council has had a number of major projects where costs have continued to escalate because of associated works which were not considered when council voted on the proposal.
“For example with the new multi-storey car park an additional million dollars of road, drainage and footpath works were added when the project was nearly completed,” he said.
“Councillors had no choice but to agree to them but that inturn affected other budget expenditure items. It is not an ideal format for an organisation that is spending over $150 million dollars each year to follow.
“The new library development went from $8m to $9m and an extra $1.5m has now been added to the theatre project.
“The new draft policy states that providing sufficient, quality information is the key requirement to assist in the capital works budget decision making process.”
Cr Cox said councils were custodians of public funds and it was important the public has an assurance they are being managed properly and effectively.
“In relation to how Council improves its performance the Local Government Act states that ‘A Council must comply with the Best Value Principles’,” he said.
“It is alarming to me that a report on productivity improvements within council during the 2011-12 financial year has been withdrawn from the public agenda.
“Council is required to review its services against the best on offer in both the public and private sectors among other factors. I believe Council is not undertaking this task or there is certainly no evidence of it around the council table.
“These are not issues on the merits of projects but on the procedures used to consider their financial impact on the total council budget.”
Council chief executive officer Craig Niemann disputed Cr Cox's claims.
“When these matters were considered at Forum, Cr Peter Cox was strong in his view that the reports needed further information and refinement so they have been taken from the current council agenda to meet that expectation," he said.
“The intention has always been to bring the two matters before a formal council meeting and that will happen in due course.
“If councillors have any concerns about the agenda then it would be helpful if they could raise them with me in the first instance.”