Frankston stands alone

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CONCERNS around governance and transparency have caused Frankston Council to leave the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Council decided not to renew its membership of the peak body representing councils across the state in the wake of an audit of the MAV by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

The VAGO report, released in February, found the MAV’s board “has failed to fulfil its obligations to provide appropriate oversight of the operations, governance and performance of MAV, to the detriment of Victoria’s 79 councils, Parliament and the community”.

Frankston mayor Cr Sandra Mayer said the decision to suspend its financial membership of the MAV, costing $58,000 per year, “was not taken lightly”.

Frankston is the only one of Victoria’s 79 councils to suspend its MAV membership.

“Our council strongly believes in a peak body advocating for councils, however we need to be fully assured the MAV operates in an effective and transparent manner,” Cr Mayer said.

Cr Mayer said council could not justify spending $58,000 worth of ratepayer money on MAV membership when the VAGO report noted the peak body had been unable to demonstrate whether its support activities contributed to the effective and efficient operations of councils.

“We want to see that we are getting value for money, and at the moment there is no way to accurately assess that,” she said.

“The MAV has the potential to be of great benefit to local councils, and hence local communities through their advocacy work, and we look forward to changes taking place that allow the MAV to fulfil this promise.”

Frankston’s unilateral decision to effectively quit the MAV comes at a time when councils, under the umbrella of the MAV, are trying to convince the Labor state government not to proceed with its planned rate capping policy with effect from 2016-17.

MAV president Bill McArthur said the organisation will implement recommendations made in the VAGO report.

“Our response to the recommendations made in the report was unanimously endorsed by all member councils at our May State Council meeting. The MAV continues to implement the recommendations from this report and our ongoing relationship with VAGO is positive.”

Mr McArthur noted 78 of Victoria’s 79 councils remain members of the MAV and, although membership can vary from year to year, “traditionally the MAV has enjoyed a strong membership”.

“In recent years we’ve mostly had all 79 councils on board however there were periods prior to this when a handful of councils chose to suspend their membership.”

Neighbouring municipalities Kingston and the Mornington Peninsula Shire have not suspended their MAV membership.

Kingston Council corporate services manager Paul Franklin said its councillors had sought assurances from the MAV that the VAGO recommendations “will be implemented in a timely and transparent manner”.

“Kingston is of the view that effective representation of the sector to other levels of government via a collective such as the MAV’s is very important and is to the benefit of Kingston and the sector,” he said.

A spokesman for the Mornington Peninsula Shire was unaware of councillors having any formal discussions about the damning VAGO report but said an official response was unavailable before deadline because “the mayor has been away the past few days”.

Cr Mayer said Frankston Council will decide whether to renew its MAV membership at the start of the 2016-17 financial year.

“Over the next 12 months, we will monitor the performance of the MAV prior to making a decision on whether we will rejoin as financial members.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 3 August 2015

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