Independent monitor appointed to Latrobe City

The independent monitor appointed to oversee Latrobe City Council says the new arrangement is “not an investigation”, rather a way to provide support to council in order to “yield the best outcome for the community”.

Experienced local government figure, with practice in reforming “troubled” councils, Lyndon Webb was yesterday appointed by Local Government Minister Tim Bull, after Latrobe City requested an independent monitor to help improve governance.

Mr Webb is expected to provide regular independent reports to Mr Bull.

Mayor Sharon Gibson said relations between councillors and officers; guidance in governance; and procurement and finance were among issues which prompted council to request the new arrangement.

“Our commitment has always been about transparency, accountability and good governance,” Cr Gibson said.

“This was about being proactive and making sure we are the best council we can possibly be.”

Speaking to The Express yesterday, Mr Webb was yet to have any discussion with Latrobe City about the appointment and said his goals would be determined by council.

“One of my first tasks is going to be to sit down with the council and see where they’re up to and the outcomes they’d like to achieve,” Mr Webb said.

“It’s been through the mill a bit as I think we all know and clearly there’s a need for some hard work to be done to get the council really moving forward in a united and positive way.

“It’s not an investigation. This is more about how I can help and provide support to yield the best outcome for the community.”

Mr Webb said during his time at Latrobe City he would have an “open door policy”, not only with council workers and councillors, but also with the broader community.

“I’m very anxious to hear from anybody who would like to talk to me,” he said.

“It’s a very diverse community in Latrobe and there are all sorts of issues. Once I get myself settled in I will be welcoming discussions.”

Mr Webb has served as chief executive of Wellington and Towong councils and has been involved in the reform of councils including Brimbank and Darebin.

“One of the benefits of this (arrangement) is it’s somebody completely independent, who is available… with no axe to grind, someone who is coming to this position with a completely open mind,” he said.

Latrobe City now joins Darebin and Buloke councils as organisations with an independent monitor, however the latter arrangements were not voluntarily requested.

It is not clear exactly how long Mr Webb will monitor Latrobe City, however a statement said the arrangement would continue until Mr Bull was “satisfied that appropriate governance processes and policies are in place”.

“Councils must not only comply with the Local Government Act, they must establish a culture of good governance within systems and processes and amongst councillors and council staff,” Mr Bull said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to creating a strong local government sector that is transparent and accountable to residents and ratepayers.

“Our new mandatory local government performance reporting framework and the My Council style website being developed will clearly show how each council is performing.”

Local Members of Parliament Russell Northe and Gary Blackwood said Mr Webb’s extensive experience in local government would provide enormous assistance to the council during a time of significant change.