Inquiry into City of Melville could take up to a year, says Local Govt minister

Local Government Minister David Templeman.
Local Government Minister David Templeman.

THE State-led inquiry into the City of Melville could take up to 12 months to finish, with Local Government Minister David Templeman hesitant to lock in a date for its completion.

On Wednesday it was revealed close to 300 complaints against the southern suburbs council had been made to the State Government since 2014, prompting the inquiry.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries will examine the council’s relationship with its administration, policies and procedures, acquisition of land and any other matters that present themselves, including the divisive wave park.

Mr Templeman said the department would get to work “as soon as is practicable” but would not put a timeframe on its completion.

“These (inquiries) can take months, if not a year,” he said.

“I would like it to be done in a timely way and deliver recommendations and outcomes as soon as is practicable but I don’t want to fetter or influence the investigator’s responsibilities.”

City chief executive Shayne Silcox said investigators would receive “full access and cooperation from the City”.

Mr Templeman said the amount of complaints was “substantially” higher than other jurisdictions, while he had witnessed firsthand at council meetings “a lack of respect” between City staff, councillors and ratepayers.

He said previous meetings between the Department, the City’s administration and elected members had failed to change the situation.

“The Department has arrived at the view an authorised inquiry is the best outcome in order to get to the bottom of a whole range of issues and restore confidence,” he said.

Mr Silcox argued the City, which in October became just the third body ever to secure the Australian Organisational Excellence Foundation’s top gong, had sought advice from key agencies to help deal with a number of issues likely to fall under the focus of the inquiry, only to be let down.

“I have been extremely concerned for some time about the lack of support and lack of avenues available to the local government sector to deal with repetitive complainants, particularly when the health and wellbeing of employees is at risk and resources are impacted,” he said.

The City is currently looking to review its policy on question time at committee and council meetings, with an internal audit revealing it does not have guidelines to deal with people asking questions “which are often repetitive and in some cases inappropriate”.

The audit, presented to councillors at a briefing session the night before Mr Templeman’s announcement, found the City had spent close to $180,000 responding to questions over the previous 14 months to July 31, 2017, with most posed from a small section of the community.

“It is encouraging that the State Government will now seek to understand the underlying issues,” he said.

“This is what we have been asking for.”

Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association secretary Mark McLerie said the group had lodged numerous complaints over a host of issues with the minister and other government bodies over the last two years.

“The inquiry is long over due,” he said.

“The Association is of the view that the type of issues that are evident at the City are indicative of the failure of the current legislation, regulation and State Government oversight of the sector.”

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