A new group that aims to shift Hepburn Shire Council to a more collaborative relationship with the community has been formed. ‘Community Voice’ was launched last week with the immediate aim of supporting the election of Councillors in the coming October election that has now been confirmed.
Community perceptions of the Council’s performance are at at an all time low across the board according to the recent local government survey. Performance was seen as particularly poor when it came to community consultation.
The new Local Government Act requires Councils to develop a community engagement policy. Unlike past practice, a key element of the policy must be to include ‘deliberative engagement.’ This means Council must give weight to community views in their decision making through a systematic process of engagement.
For the community, deliberative engagement means that showing up with a wish list will not be enough. Nor will just anyone with a view be able to nominate and show up claiming to represent the community.
Instead, Council will need to put in place a set of inclusive, well supported, independent, timely, transparent and representative processes to consult the community on important issues. This will be a major change for the way Council has to operate. Citizen’s juries and panels are likely to be part of the way consultation on important issues proceeds in the future.
Spokesperson for the group, Jen Bray said, “We’re encouraging all Shire citizens to use their community voice and participate in our local democracy.”
Community Voice describes itself as “a non-political grassroots movement that aims to strengthen the Hepburn Shire community by facilitating its active participation in local government community engagement, policy development and decision making.”
Community Voice sees itself as having an ongoing role in monitoring Councillors’ commitment to community engagement and the push for better models of community participation and accountability.
The Community Voice Facebook page already has over 600 members.
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