Council circles wagons

MELVILLE council is going into overdrive in its quest to rein in irksome customers.

At next week’s monthly meeting, councillors will be given an internal audit compiled by two staff that found the city has spent $360,000 answering questions from just 10 entities over the last two years, and that the queries are piling up at an increasing rate.

The issue has prompted the council to launch yet another review of question time at council meetings. In 2016 it canned questions at agenda briefing forums on the basis they weren’t compulsory, but this was overturned within weeks after an outcry.

In the current review, the council will look at inserting provisions into its standing orders to give it scope to deal with “repetitive” or “inappropriate” questions.

Councillors are also being asked to implement a new policy that deals with managing unreasonable conduct by customers.

The city says over the last four years there’s been a dramatic increase in people behaving unreasonably, wasting staff members’ time. Apart from diverting them from other activities that might benefit the city, the behaviour threatens to make the council an unsafe workplace by submitting staff to mental and physical health risks.

Reacted

While the proposed policy doesn’t detail what measures the council will use to deal with unreasonable customers or any sanctions, it does state that any withdrawing of access to the council has to be done by senior management.

“The policy will be implemented through a set of management strategies including operational policies, procedures, staff training and support, public information and reporting mechanisms,” the policy reads.

The Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association reacted strongly to the council’s reviews and policies.

“We believe we are one of the ‘terrible ten’ entities mentioned in this report and we have continually expressed concerns with the basis and use of this report,” the MRRA said in an email to the council.

It’s asked to make a deputation at the upcoming meeting to address its concerns, noting that one Freedom of Information request it submitted to the council took almost five months to be answered and was then indecipherable.

Another application which sought the background information the council used to prepare its “terrible ten” report elicited a response that it was “prepared for the purpose of seeking legal advice with an aim of obtaining a restraining order. The information is therefore privileged.”

“A remarkable statement,” the MRRA noted.

The Herald contacted the council several times, but they didn’t get back to us.

by MOLLY SCHMIDT

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