Planning review helps build community confidence
A proactive review into planning matters has found no evidence of improper conduct at Kingston Council.
The review was sparked by planning issues at the City of Casey, with Kingston Council keen to reassure the community that no similar issues existed in Kingston.
Lawyers Holding Redlich were engaged to conduct an extensive, independent review into any local planning matters that involved key players from IBAC’s Operation Sandon investigation in Casey.
Kingston Mayor Steve Staikos said Councillors called for the review to give the community confidence that proper planning processes were followed at Kingston. “We took a proactive approach and looked into any planning applications involving people who were part of the Casey investigation plus a number of other contentious items,” Cr Staikos said.
“I’m pleased to report that the review found no evidence of improper conduct. We take these issues very seriously and wanted to ensure our community had full confidence in local planning processes.”
The lawyers’ review also provided 13 recommendations on how to further strengthen planning processes to provide additional protection. A report on implementing the recommendations will now be prepared including:
- Maintain a register of any Councillor meetings with lobbyists
- Develop/review political donation disclosure policy
- Randomly review planning applications for auditing purposes
- Provide ongoing ethics training for Councillors and officers
- Providing training for Councillors on the Victorian Planning system
- Define which senior officers should attend meetings with applicants
- Document all meetings with external parties and lobbyists
- Ensure adequate process to report suspected misconduct
- Develop a framework to guide Councillor ‘call ins’ of planning applications
- Adopt policy on election campaign return forms
- Consider planning panel recommendations, provide transparent approach if recommendation not followed
- Consider ways to enhance relationships between Councillors and officers.
Council has provided a copy of the report to IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman’s Office to keep them informed of the review.