VILLAGE committee presidents have failed to convince some councillors to reverse their decision to suspend the community consultation forums while their future is determined.
Several presidents made their views publicly known – possibly for the final time at a council meeting – on Monday evening in an effort to find compromise.
Aspendale/Edithvale/Aspendale Gardens/Waterways Village Committee president Henry Corcoran said many in the community were “shocked” councillors had decided to “disband” the committees (‘Village committees canned’, The News, 28/5/14).
“I was taken aback by some of the comments made from some of the councillors which were probably just short of offensive when talking about how the village committees were performing,” Mr Corcoran said. “I think it’s a bit sad – I think it’s possible to have a discussion that’s a bit healthier than that.”
Mr Corcoran asked councillors to meet the presidents of all village committees to air their concerns about the existing setup. He suggested such a meeting be chaired by an independent chairperson.
He feared council had not undertaken a realistic consultation and the outcome to scrap the committees had been pre-determined.
“Let’s get together and work together and talk about the issues and then we may come to agreement that another structure is better but at the moment I don’t have confidence, the village committee doesn’t have confidence and I don’t believe that the community of Kingston has confidence that a realistic consultation has taken place,” Mr Corcoran said.
South ward councillor Tamsin Bearsley liked the idea of an independent chair and said she believed council officers were looking at that possibility. Cr Bearsley said village committee members would be consulted during the reform process.
“The Aspendale Gardens village committee [will have the opportunity] to discuss their successors and what worked well with them to bring things into future committees that Kingston runs.”
Fellow south ward councillor David Eden believed some councillors had already decided “to get rid” of village committees.
He said it was a case of: “We’ve decided to get rid of you and now we’re going to push you aside because we want less resistance throughout that process.”
Cr Ron Brownlees called Cr Eden’s claim “simplistic”.
“There was certainly no agenda to preclude village committee chairs and members from being involved in the discussions on an ongoing basis,” Cr Brownlees said.
Cr Rosemary West said council had “become isolated” from the community.
“This is a sign to how resistant this council has become to listening to anything anyone from outside the council actually says,” Cr West said.
Former councillor Trevor Shewan, president of the Patterson Lakes Carrum Village Committee, said “natural justice” had been denied by placing the committees “in recess” while their future was being decided.
He said village committees had pursued action required on several matters important to Kingston residents, such as fixing up Patterson River pathways that have been in a state of disrepair for years.
Clarinda/Oakleigh South/Clayton South Village Committee chairman Tasos Dimitriu also disagreed with council’s decision to suspend the village committees during the review process.
“I believe the decision is wrong,” he said.
Cr Geoff Gledhill said he thought some people had been “mischievous” in “whipping up” the sense that there was “a veil of secrecy” surrounding the committees review process via “the local media”.
Mr Corcoran said he had not made comment to the media so far, despite being asked to do so.
The mayor, Cr Peulich, agreed with Mr Corcoran that the process should not be discussed “through the media”.
“That’s a fair point,” he said at the public meeting.
Although Cr Peulich said Mr Corcoran had “the right” to speak to the media.
Kingston Council is considering moving to a “consultative communities” system focused on issues-based format rather than the existing village committees structure.
In May, Crs Brownlees, Bearsley, Gledhill, John Ronke and Peulich voted to put village committees “into recess” with effect from end of the end of June.
Crs West, Steve Staikos, Eden and Tamara Barth had opposed the move.