Plain speaking about budget

By Casey Neill

Greater Dandenong Council will look at ways to boost budget transparency.
At the Monday 24 July meeting, councillor Matthew Kirwan asked for a report on making consultation on the council’s annual plan and budget more meaningful.
“Currently our process with exhibiting the draft budget doesn’t work, and residents have told me that,” he said.
Cr Kirwan said the council received only a small amount of feedback and “often a narrow representation”.
He said that as it stood, officers came up with ideas with input from councillors and asked residents for feedback in May.
“Only the tiniest of tweaking is possible at that stage,” he said.
The draft budget and other council documents use bureaucratic terms, he said, and should instead use plain English.
Cr Kirwan said his notice of motion was about identifying options, conceding that keeping costs low must be a focus.
He said the using online feedback resource Our Say a few years ago elicited more feedback from residents and was cost-efficient.
Cr Tim Dark said he’d just been through his first budget and it was “a dry document”.
“There’s nothing better than transparency,” he said.
“There needs to be increased consultation across our budget.”
Cr Maria Sampey said many migrant residents did not understand the current process.
“I did my schooling here in Australia and it’s still hard to understand it,” she said.
Cr Heang Tak said: “I think we should give this notice of motion a go.”
Cr Sean O’Reilly said the motion’s intent was “very honourable”.
“But what I have reservations about is the practicalities,” he said.
“We should have some sort of plan that we come up with… and then we seek individual feedback on our particular plan.
“We should be leaders and we should be coming up with something in the first instance that we can listen to feedback on.
“This motion seems to suggest we should be doing consultation twice – first with the blank piece of paper.”
Cr O’Reilly said everything had a cost and a benefit.
“We’re talking about more council resources to be dedicated to this when the council resource could be better applied actually implementing what the plans are,” he said.
Cr O’Reilly voted against the motion alongside Cr Loi Truong. Crs Kirwan, Dark, Sampey, Tak, Blades, Memeti and Chea voted in favour.
The council is to receive a report on the topic by its Monday 25 September meeting.