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Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 30-Mar-2017

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By margaret o’rourke
City of Greater Bendigo Mayor

I AM constantly surprised by some people’s thoughts about council.

Prior to becoming a councillor, I was a keen council watcher and read the council plan and key strategic documents. I was a critic of council, both positive and negative. But I felt in order to best engage and create the change I wanted to see, I needed to stand for election.

I thought I knew a thing or two about the internal workings of the council and staff, given my work as a community representative on the 2013 Independent Review Committee. But it’s nothing compared to what I have learnt as a new councillor, which is why I think I should bust a few myths about some of the common misconceptions.

First, the buck stops with councillors. The relationship between councillors and staff is a collaborative one. Councillors seek advice from staff but the final decision making rests with us. This council sets the agenda and work plan for the executive and staff.
 
Council uses the council plan and budget process to outline its priorities for the community. Staff then deliver projects that support these priority areas, as approved by council. Council employs the chief executive officer, who is responsible for employing and managing staff.

Council is committed to thorough, genuine community engagement. It is important residents make the most of opportunities to have their say but understand council cannot deliver on everyone’s aspirations for our community.

It will be critical to find new and inventive community engagement opportunities to ensure it is as easy as possible for people to participate. The traditional methods of letter writing, face-to-face meetings and phone calls will always be available, but people’s lifestyles are busy and they want quick and easy ways to be informed and offer their opinion. It is important every demographic and all parts of the community can be involved.

The commitment by senior staff really impresses me.

Yes, they are paid an annual salary and there is an expectation they attend out of hours events, but they can be out every week night for many hours at a time. They are also on-call for emergencies and last-minute council activities. The staff care very much for the organisation they work for and, like councillors, want to make greater Bendigo a wonderful place to live.

You’ll see council supporting a number of community groups, programs and initiatives. This is important because these groups, such as cultural groups, do not always have the means of sharing their message or information.

Council is committed to helping the community develop positive attitudes towards multiculturalism, embrace inclusion, and reduce racial and religious discrimination.

If you’re ever wondering about how things work on the inside, I’d be happy to explain them to you.

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