Open Letter to the City of Greater Bendigo council

 

Dear councillors,

Council’s involvement in the government’s proposed GovHub is a muddle for residents.

Confusing is an understatement.

Some might say misleading.

Government websites show it intends to construct a new $90 million Government office by 2022.

A GovHub, to house 1000 employees – including 650 EFT council staff – on the site of the current City of Greater Bendigo main office in Lyttleton Terrace.

It all seems done and dusted. What will it cost council in capital and rent?

What is going on? The previous council never voted to support council office consolidation.

The land and buildings the government is grabbing are owned by residents; not the council officers, and not the politicians.

Unfortunately, as councillors, our representatives, you appear silent and compliant.

One way or the other, once again, residents will pay for others’ ambitions. Increased rates or dropped projects?

What happened to the values respect, respond, learn and care you councillors agreed would guide you to be the best for our community. Respected residents are not kept in the dark.

Council’s own website tells us nothing about what’s happening.

Residents need to have access to information to understand what is going on and to participate.

The mayor recently said council had no control over developments. Not so.

Council documents and government websites show council or its officers have been working on the GovHub without open council meeting debate or verifiable supportive research.

Sometime before July 2016 council advised it was willing to participate in a feasibility study, yet there is no council minute authorising such action.

Given this, we ask the following questions on behalf of residents:

When were councillors and senior council officers briefed by government officers or parliamentarians that the GovHub would be constructed on the site of the council’s main office in Lyttleton Terrace, and what documents were provided?

On what page of council’s 2017-21 Community Plan is the GovHub identified?

When were officers’ reports presented to councillors supporting a GovHub, and how can residents access those reports and at what council meetings did you as councillors debate and make any decisions?

When was a feasibility study presented and a decision made and when was a business case presented to councillors at a council meeting, debated, and a decision made? Was a concept plan presented to councillors at a council meeting, debated, and a decision made?

The Ballarat GovHub is proof the state government can push ahead without council and staff relocating, constructed on Crown land, basically independent of council. Six hundred new jobs for Ballarat and no future debt for ratepayers.

Council supports decentralising government agencies, so in a hi-tech world should consider decentralising council units to towns and suburbs to support your 10-minute neighbourhood strategy.

Clarity is needed. Only when information is publicly accessible and councillors engage with the community can there be robust community analysis, constructive engagement, and fresh ideas offered around what steps council can take on behalf of the city’s residents.

We look forward to council’s response.