Wimmera councils monitored by online watchdog; My Councils to increase transparency

Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch
Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch

WIMMERA councils will be put under the microscope after the State Government announced plans to introduce a new website to increase transparency for ratepayers.

Local Government Minister Tim Bull said the new website would provide ratepayers with unprecedented access to council finances and performance data.

“People will be able to use the ‘My Council’ style website to see how their council compares with other similar councils, how their rates are being spent and whether they are getting value for money,” he said. 

“This will in turn help drive improvements across the local government sector.”

“I think there is a danger of using measuring tools because we’re all different, not all councils are the same.''

Cr Andrew McLean

Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Andrew McLean said he was unsure what the new website would offer, given a raft of information was available on the council’s website.

“I suppose across the whole state it might be a bit easier to look at different councils all in the one place,” he said.

“But if someone is particularly interested in something then they can access all the information from our website.”

Cr McLean said he was concerned the new website would introduce a rating system and unfairly pit councils against one another.

“Whether it’s expected to be a metering tool or a rating system, hopefully it is just the ability to access more information,” he said.

“I think there is a danger of using measuring tools because we’re all different, not all councils are the same.

“We obviously have different pressures, for example, we don’t have any parking meters and other councils have parking meters and a lot more businesses.”

Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch said he was waiting for more detail of the website but supported any measure that would assist in making councils more transparent.

“The bottom line is that we are always transparent and we’re happy to be that way to the public,” he said.

But Cr Gersch also raised concerns about a system that would compare councils based on a ratings system.

“One of the problems would be enterprise bargaining arrangements,” he said. 

“Hindmarsh might offer three per cent pay rises and West Wimmera might go for a four per cent rise.

“If you start putting those figures against one another it could do some damage.”

Mr Bull said it would be the first standardised system of performance reporting for local government in Australia.

“It will also assist councils to compare their performance and hopefully lead to the sharing of information and best practice,” he said.