Community voice what they want

Brad Gundalch, Helen Nexten & Samuel Brimson (2)

A public forum on Saturday was yet another demonstration of world’s best practice in community involvement and empowerment being developed in Geraldton.

During the “what do you want?” forum members of the participatory Budgeting community panel asked the wider community for their ideas on some areas where agreement amongst panel members is proving hard to reach.

The Community Panel has been reviewing the City’s service provision and some of the more thorny issues included whether or not the Aquarena service delivery over the winter months; library opening hours; land development and tip tokens.

About 100 people attended the forum and spoke on different services that the City provides, outlining where there were differences of opinion, or where difficult decisions have to be made.

According to the Director of Creative Communities, Ms Andrea Selvey, the panellists were grappling with some really difficult issues and were keen to have wider input into their final recommendations.

She said the City provided 39 services which have all been assessed by the panel over seven weekend workshops.

“We have developed a model that allows panellists to rate services by the perceived value of the service,” she said.

“In some cases, the panel members have said that the City should provide more of a particular service, in the knowledge that this will cost more.

“Some services have a ‘don’t change’ recommendation, while it has been recommended that others can be cut, to save money,” said Ms Selvey.

Ms Selvey said the panellists were finding it very difficult to identify services which could be cut to enable more money to go to others which they’d like to see increased.

“For instance, there is overwhelming support for more youth programs,” she said.

“However in order to provide more programs such as Midnight Basketball, we will have to cut somewhere else.

“Every recommendation the panel makes Council will have to consider in terms of how much money is in the budget. That is why it is so important that community people get in and tell us what they think is important.

“The process is about dividing up the budgetary pie and Council takes this very seriously,” she said. “The councillors really want the community to help spend the money where it is most valued.”