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People given say on future

26 Oct 2014

People given say on future Image

In a ground-breaking initiative, the City of Melbourne has devised its first ever People’s Panel, which will assist in creating the city’s first 10-year financial plan.

Having received more than 700 expressions of interest from the public, the inaugural panel has since been narrowed down to a group of 47.

Despite finishing the last financial year in its strongest ever financial position with a large asset base and zero debt, council funding is finite.

As one of Australia’s fastest-growing municipalities, Cr Stephen Mayne said the City of Melbourne launched the initiative as a response to increased population growth and subsequent demand on services and infrastructure.

“We wanted to hear from regular people who represent a broad cross-section of the community,” he said.

“The people’s panel is impartial; they’re everyday Melburnians who don’t necessarily have a vested interest. They are completely independent and they can give us some fresh, independent, well-informed advice.”

Cr Mayne said rather than reviewing spending on a conventional yearly basis, council was creating its first 10-year plan to ensure Melbourne remained one of the world’s most livable cities.

Each year, the council’s budget is based on five service streams, which are categorised under services, city activation, advancing Melbourne, designing, building and managing assets and regulation.

Cr Mayne said the purpose of the panel was to prioritise spending based on these streams, engage with council and provide recommendations that reflected community interest.

As the sole member from Southbank, barrister Bruce Shaw described the panel as positive initiative.

“There’s nobody there with an axe to grind, everyone is randomly selected so there are no interest groups of people with an agenda,” he said.

“It’s a far more effective way of gauging community perspective than what you would get from an opinion poll.”

Mr Shaw said while he hoped to provide a voice for Southbank where possible, he was using his position to push for improving public transport, reducing traffic in the CBD and helping disadvantaged communities.

After hearing its final round of expert presentations on October 4, Cr Mayne said the focus of the next two panel meetings would be on deliberating to form recommendations for council.

By late November, the panel will present its recommendations to the City of Melbourne for consideration as it developed a draft 10-year financial plan.

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