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Council staff ignore motion

06 Mar 2014

Council staff ignore motion Image

By Shane Scanlan

City of Melbourne staff have successfully disconnected Docklands from any special financial reporting requirements, despite the best efforts of councillors.

The officers have ignored a unanimous motion of council directing them to include Docklands-specific financial reporting when reviewing terms of reference for the Docklands Community Forum (DCF).

The direction from councillors came last year as a compromise position to compensate Docklands for the loss of State Parliament legislation mandating special reporting obligations.

Councillors last March agreed to request the repeal of the legislation but directed officers to “address” the issue of annual reporting as part of the terms of reference review.

At the same time, the councillors directed staff to report to the next Community Forum written details of specific Docklands spending in the areas of events, grants and marketing.

Part 1.6 of the March 5, 2013 Future Melbourne Committee motion reads: “That the Future Melbourne Committee notes that the Terms of Reference of the Docklands Community Forum calls for a review of the roles and purposes of the Docklands Community Forum after five meetings (within the next 12 months), and expects that the issue of annual reporting of financial information to the Docklands Community will be addressed at that time.”

Specific financial reporting was originally legislated for Docklands to ensure total transparency to encourage the fledgling suburb to grow.

The DCF’s revised terms of reference were publicly revealed on February 26 but contained no mention of financial reporting to the Docklands community.

The council’s community strengthening manager, Ian Hicks, told the forum that the issue “did not emerge” in the terms of reference sessions conducted with the forum’s representative group.

But members of the representative group say they were not asked their view on whether financial reporting should be included.

Mr Hicks said he had “been through the process” with city councillors and the next step would be endorsement by the Docklands Steering Group - a high level committee of council and Places Victoria representatives.

Cr Rohan Leppert, who moved the motion to include financial reporting as part of the review, said he expected the committee motion would be acted upon.

“I did have something more proactive in mind,” Cr Leppert said.

A council spokesperson said: “The terms of reference review required the City of Melbourne to consult with the Docklands Community Forum regarding its roles and responsibilities, but it is not the city’s intention to impose a view on the forum.”

“The Docklands Steering Group (DSG) has discussed the matter of financial reporting and, as the financial reporting role did not emerge from the DCF consultation, the DSG determined that until the DocklandsCo-ordination Committee was dissolved (at this stage this is not the case), the financial reporting could continue through that mechanism.”

“The City of Melbourne has stringent and transparent financial reporting processes. Ultimately, City of Melbourne believes that the governance in Docklands needs to be normalised, and it will be useful for the Docklands community to have the same processes applied to it as everywhere else in the municipality.”

“As highlighted by forum representatives at the recent Docklands Community Forum, the forum is able to ask the city for financial information regarding Docklands at any time. This has been the practice of the forum and the CoM in the past and will continue to be in the future.”

Cr Kevin Louey said he was raise the issue with the Docklands Co-ordination Committee when it meets in September and seek support for formalising the reporting in the forum's terms of reference.

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