Disenchantment seeds DIY policy

Gavin Waugh’s run-in with Melville council over his bush restoration project prompted him to develop a full set of policies for councils. File photo.

A DISENCHANTED Melville resident has taken local government policy reform into his own hands.

Since the end of May, Bull Creek’s Gavin Waugh has been advertising his Model Local Government Policy in the Herald.

Mr Waugh says he created the framework to measure and maximise community engagement, while improving the efficiency, accountability and consistency of local government. He also wanted to provide an efficient framework for developing policies which would be consistent across the sector.

He says despite the lofty aims of the Local Government Act, councils are falling short in their governance and accountability.

“The CEO has control over the employment of his staff. And because of the way the public sector, the assessments are made, the more people that are employed in the organisation, the higher the CEO salary,” Mr Waugh said.

“It’s important for him to employ as many people as he can. And you can only do that by excluding the community and putting in managers to do what would otherwise be done as community assessments and advice.

“The downside of this particular model is that because you’re separating community from the administration, you’re actually alienating the community as well.”

Mr Waugh says he’s tracked down 1500 separate policies across the state’s municipalities which could be boiled down to 10 to ensure a “much higher degree of consistency”, even with “some differences between them”. 

“The City of Melville has something like 110 or 120, individual policies. And they’re all so confused, and contradictory,” he said.

Another of his model policies is aimed at getting better management.

“The success of businesses depends entirely on the management structure of them. And from what I’ve seen within local government, the management structures are so poor, that outside of the government protections, they would fail, they would be bankrupt. 

“If we had a 1 per cent, I think it’s a 1 per cent, improvement in management of local governments, that’s something like $400 million across the state, which then goes back into the resident ratepayers pockets. The industry is putting around $40 billion to the economy.”

This becomes a major issue particularly when ratepayers have “have no choice over providers or the services inflicted upon them.”

Mr Waugh was driven to create his policies after almost single-handedly rehabilitating Brockman Park in Bull Creek only for the City of Melville to have Water Corporation contractors bobcat away his efforts. 

He said he was confronted with bullying from senior staff, including abusive phone calls and internet trolling, and has previously referred to their undoing of his rehabilitation work as “a deliberate act of vexatious retribution”.

“The whole structure of management of local governments, and I don’t just refer to Melville here, but the whole structure is based around a bullying culture,” he said.

“I have had reports and I’ve had some firsthand experience of bullying coming out of the administrative offices there. Two years ago, [local government] minister [David] Templeman told the city they had to change their culture and that bullying is still there. All they’ve done is they’ve employed a consultant to come in and address the issues of changing the culture. And it hasn’t happened.”

Mr Waugh initially advertised his policies without putting his name to them, which led to an exchange that gave the Chook a wry smile.

We were contacted by Mr Waugh’s bete noir, former mayor Russell Aubrey, asking about the author.

Mr Aubrey was at the helm of the council during Mr Waugh’s big fall out.

“I agree with several of the issues raised but I wonder who has the insight to raise them in this manner,” Mr Aubrey said.

by LACHIE ALLEN

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