City of Melville’s unreasonable behaviour policy draws criticism from ratepayers association

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE City of Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association has labelled the council’s adoption of an unreasonable behaviour policy as premature.

The policy Managing Unreasonable Conduct by Customers was given the green light by the council on July 17, with some of the strategies in dealing with the behaviour including specifying who the customer may contact within the organisation, what issues will no longer be discussed and how frequently they may contact the City.

Association committee member Lindie Mehan said the issue of the relationship of administration with residents and ratepayers and the City’s complaints handling was a part of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ inquiry into the City.

“Given this, surely the appropriate thing to do is to wait for the outcomes and recommendations from that inquiry before deciding if a new policy is needed, and if needed, what it should contain,” she said.

Outgoing chief executive Shayne Silcox said even with an inquiry underway which had demanded significant resources, the City had taken a business as usual approach and had an obligation to continue operating in the best interest of its residents and ratepayers.

“The City has been working directly with the Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries throughout the duration of inquiry, and at no time has the Department indicated or required that the City change, delay or pause its daily business,” he said.

“Managing Unreasonable Conduct by Customers is a strategic policy commonly used by Commonwealth government agencies and State agencies elsewhere in Australia and in New Zealand, and I would expect we will see more local governments consider adopting such policies in Western Australia, such as we have seen in the eastern states over the last 12 years.”

A right of appeal was included as an amendment to the motion during the council meeting, which stated “customers” could appeal a decision with the review undertaken by a senior manager not involved in the original decision.

The person could then seek an external review from the WA Ombudsman or other “applicable oversight agency”.

Ms Mehan said the complaints processes of the WA Ombudsman and other oversight bodies were “not fully transparent”.

“We believe that the well-defined review process already defined in Part 9 of the Local Government Act, i.e. a review of the administration’s decision by Council or the State Administrative Tribunal, would be a far more appropriate and effective model to follow,” she said.

Dr Silcox said the policy was based on models developed by and New Zealand Ombudsmen.