Increasingly the community is expressing dissatisfaction with “governance” as practiced in Glen Eira. It appears that there is a vast difference in Council’s views of governance (what it is and how well Council does it) and the views of the community which council serves. Unlike the other two tiers of government (Federal and State), Local Government does not have an opposition or objective media coverage to ensure that issues are publicised and alternate opinions are aired. So we thought it appropriate to make some comments on this issue.
But first some definitions from the Municipal Association Victoria – “Good Governance Guide” and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) paper titled “Local Government and Community Governance: A Literature Review”
Governance – “is defined as the process of decision making, and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). This gets to the heart of how local governments operate as decision making bodies and their relationship with the administration which advises Council and implements its decisions. It also includes the way that local governments engage with their communities in this process.”
Good Governance – exists “when a government, governs for and on behalf of its community”. Good Governance “is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law”. Crucial to good governance is the requirement that “local governments establish what good governance means to them, and monitor and evaluate their success in a achieving it”
- Participation is considered crucial. Participation needs to be informed (ie. appropriate documentation provided beforehand) and organized (so that participants feel part of the process)
- Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. These rules and regulations ensure that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement, and that enough information is provided in an easily understandable form and media.
- Effectiveness and efficiency means that processes produce results that meet the needs of the community while making the best, and most sustainable, use of resources.
- Responsiveness means that local government and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
- Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Local government must be accountable to the community and, within local government, the roles of the elected representatives and the administration should be clearly defined.
- Consensus oriented: Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in a community to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective.
- Equity and inclusiveness: Good governance depends on ensuring that all members of a community feel that they have a stake and do not feel excluded.
- Rule of Law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially.
Having outlined the above definitions and the inter related principles of good governance, it should be noted that the role of local government is changing (due to state and federal legislation) and as a result the relationship of local government to it’s community is also changing. The Glen Eira community is showing a growing interest in how the community is governed and a growing demand for greater participation in a wide range of issues. Council on the other hand seems focussed on what it thinks residents want and this does not bode well for the concept of “working together”