Government at the hub of council control
In our opinion little now differentiates the City of Greater Bendigo Council from the face of government and wannabee government in Bendigo following the decision by a majority of councillors to re-install Cr Margaret O’Rourke as Mayor for a fourth year. Let’s hope that changes.
In her time at the helm, there will now have been four different deputy mayors; now Cr Matt Emond (partner of dumped Labor frontbencher Lisa Chesters the Federal member of Parliament for Bendigo) is the latest anointed to parade beside the mayor.
The deputy mayor might also have a fair bit of deputising to do as Mayor O’Rourke continues along as the boss of the regional cities council group and chief sales assistant for the Victorian Government.
With such leadership at the local level it’s no wonder the Bendigo Bunch is under the spell of the current Victorian government. Bendigo Council is handy at criticising the Federal Government, one of a different political colour, though but when was the last time we heard words of criticism of the State Government flow from the mouths of Sheriff Marg or her new Deputy?
It’s time the majority of councillors stopped playing the party political game and stood up for Bendigo. Develop some real fortitude and walk away from the poor result clapped-out kind of GovHub partnership with State Government that will lumber Bendigo residents with a monster financial burden for no gain.
Tell your good mates in Spring Street that second best is not good enough for Bendigo. If the State Government wants a GovHub, build it on their own land like they did in Ballarat, not ours, and find tenants to pay rent without costing Bendigo residents millions for years to come.
Councillors while you are at it, tell the government the in-principle GovHub deal is off; 55 confirmed new government jobs for Bendigo is appalling compared with Ballarat’s is getting 600!
Once you’ve done that, start demanding this current government and local MPs Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards get cracking with reinstating the double train track between Bendigo and Kyneton that they ripped up for a “fast train” service that never eventuated.
In the first three years of Sheriff O’Rourke’s Mayoral reign in the top chair the public has not been fully informed or consulted about the GovHub.
Why didn’t council put the entire GovHub project area and buildings (worth in our estimation $15-20 million) on the open market? The Bendigo Bunch crash ahead with this dud GovHub and liquidate our city office land for a mere $5.3 million of to keep the State Government happy, severely tarnishing Bendigo’s reputation and credibility have been. Residents are unaware the government will pay nothing for the buildings worth over $10 million.
There are even lingering questions about failed business dealing of a company in which she was an equal interest with records continuing to show that City of Greater Bendigo is a creditor of that liquidated company.
What is most concerning is council’s 20 February GovHub land sale decision was an in-principle decision; a non-binding decision. The councillors still await further details before they make a final decision to proceed. That could be in the New Year. Yet, the Mayor talks (as she always has) that it’s a done deal, and the CEO proceeds to close council offices, sign leases, and inform residents about new service arrangements because as far as he is concerned it is a done deal. This is presumptuous push-polling. Councillors have not made their final decision.
Where has democracy gone? Residents are being misled.
The Mayor, her Deputy and Councillors should be putting the brakes on the GovHub disaster appearing on the horizon.
We want the independence and best interests of Bendigo restored. Sadly, the leadership of the Bendigo council is looking too close to government to care about transparency, accountability, governance and putting Bendigo first. That can change for the good of Greater Bendigo residents.
Councillors restore our faith in democracy. Hold off. Be open. No more claims about confidentiality and no back room closed meetings. Release vital information. Call for submissions. Encourage public debate, then call a public meeting and consult with the residents. After these accountable steps make transparent final decision