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Council still in headlock

Council still in headlock

John Robinson to stay - deciding against resigning

Councillor John Robinson remains at loggerheads with Horsham Rural City Council hierarchy despite deciding against resigning from his position.

Cr Robinson flagged his intention to ‘stand aside’ from council duties earlier this month because of what he said were governance issues within the council.

His grievances stemmed from the calling of a special meeting to deal with his motion of rescission against plans to publicly display a 20-year City to River masterplan to redevelop Horsham.

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Cr Robinson, who had argued the masterplan lacked appropriate councillor input and community consultation, was unable to attend the special meeting due to a prior appointment.

In his absence the rescission motion was defeated four votes to two.

During an at-times heated ordinary council meeting on Monday night, Cr Robinson suggested the special meeting had been unlawful.

He said mayor Mark Radford had the right to call a special meeting but had failed to give him enough time to research and prepare for the meeting. Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla denied the claim, saying the council had obtained legal advice ascertaining the special meeting was valid.

Mr Bhalla said Cr Robinson had walked out of his office and did not answer phone calls when he tried to consult him during the process of setting a date for the special meeting.

Cr Radford said he regretted not giving Cr Robinson an opportunity to change the date of the special meeting after it became clear he was unable to attend.

But he maintained councillors had been given enough time to prepare for the meeting.

“It is important to allow more information gathering, which is why it was better the meeting was on a Wednesday rather than a Monday, which gave us an opportunity to have a briefing,” he said.

“That briefing was attended by most of the councillors, and the staff involved with the City to River plan were able to explain exactly what the consultation process has been.”

Addressing Cr Robinson, Cr Radford said, “Once I knew you weren’t going to be able to attend the meeting, I should have availed you of an opportunity to shift it to the Thursday or the Friday.

“In reflection I didn’t do that and I think it was a dumb thing not to do. For that I apologise.”

However, Cr Radford slammed what he described as ‘extraordinary criticism’ of council staff by Cr Robinson and others during the past two months.

In response, Cr Robinson said he wanted to ‘express my lack of confidence in the processes in this council’ on the public record.

During the meeting councillors voted unanimously to extend the public exhibition and submission peroid of the masterplan to August 30.

Before the conclusion of the meeting Cr David Grimble gave notice he would move to seek an independent audit of the masterplan at a future council meeting.

Cr Robinson backed Cr Grimble’s call for an audit, saying the Victorian Auditor General should examine the council’s actions.

“There needs to be a critical look at this, because there are enough people upset in the community about what is going to happen that they could launch action that brings this to a grinding halt if we haven’t done things right,” he said. Cr Robinson praised the formation of a Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents group, which met for the first time on Sunday.

He said the group, comprising residents, business owners and community leaders, would help keep the council accountable.

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