Denis O’Bryan: Council staff are the servants of the ratepayer

Candidates say
6 October 2017

Denis O’Bryan: “I got about 2/3 through this. I have attached a copy of my answers (which also include background comments in case the MC had relented and given us a bit more time). I also sent them to the Chamber, saying they will still be relevant if I am elected.”

On 3 October 2017, Geelong Chamber of Commerce organised a Candidate Forum at Rydges Geelong where each candidate was given 90 seconds to present his or her response to a number of questions and also summarise their policies and priorities. In this ‘Not in 90 seconds’ series we present notes and draft speeches that candidates had prepared but weren’t able to express within the timespan of 1:30 minutes.

By Denis O’Bryan, candidate for Bellerine Ward

Effective Governance, Culture and Behaviour
The subsequent report released by the panel of commissioners in March 2016 cited a lack of long term vision, leadership and good government to meet the long term major economic challenges of the City. Issues such as conflict between councillors, a lack of good governance and allegations of bullying and harassment were cited.

The Council and its assets are owned by the ratepayer in the same way as a Company and its assets are owned by the shareholders. Like a Board of Directors, Councillors will use Council assets and staff via the CEO to deliver maximum value to the ratepayer. We Councillors will resolve policy conflicts as a team because our common ground and first priority will always be maximum value to the ratepayer. Councillors will deliver leadership and direction, and the CEO will implement it.

Business Certainty
A survey of business trends undertaken in late 2016 by the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with Deakin University, listed Local Government Leadership, Policy or Support as the number one barrier to business growth in the Geelong region.

Any Council I am in will be the number one supporter and encourager of business health and growth. We may even be joint investors because we need to find other sustainable sources of finance to deliver value to rate payers.

Under our supervision and direction, the CEO will make sure that Council staff is the servant of the rate payer. Eg, the days of unsupervised planning staff harassing and screwing business applicants with inconsistent interpretations of the planning scheme or vindictive demands for costly extra reports are over.

If time
Chamber has been too patient with Council. Be more aggressive because the future for Geelong ratepayers depends on the products, services, investment and employment provided by local businesses. We need more, better, bigger businesses.

Direction and Leadership
During the term of administration a major community consultation of 16,000 residents was led by the Administrators. The consultation resulted in the adoption of a 30 year vision for Geelong – ‘Our Future’ A Clever and Creative City-Region.

The “Our Future” vision is a good start because the whole community is involved.
In its current format, it is like a grab bag of very good grass roots ideas.
It needs a bit more work to turn it into a coherent strategic plan.

Go to the “measures of success”. A few critical things are missing. Who is responsible for each performance measure? Who pays? What’s the step by step strategy to the goal? But the most important thing missing is the goal – I need to see a map of how we want our area to look in 30 years time. Where are residential areas, factories, agriculture, shopping centres, roads, rail, bike tracks, coastal attractions, tourist hot spots, accommodation areas, boat ramps and safe harbours, etc.

Background notes (if time)
Almost all “measures of success” are beyond Council jurisdiction and control. This means one thing – Council can’t be held accountable for it. Council is the logical implementer, but it has no skin in the game.

Absence of a firm future goal allows planning by the latest bright idea rather than planning by design. The planning scheme is the closest thing we have to a map of the future, except that it is as solid as the next planning scheme amendment.

Already, the current high growth strategy is inconsistent with at least two performance measures – “No net loss of open space by suburb” – because large paddocks are being covered with houses. AND “50 per cent of new housing construction to be conducted within existing urban areas”

Nor does it address my concern of how our currently inadequate infrastructure will ever catch up with the high planned growth rate, and who will pay for it.

Denis O’Bryan

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