With all the talk of a new paradigm at the Federal level, reformwcc has been promoting the pressing need for a new paradigm at the community level for some years now.
See, for example, http://reformwcc.info/new-life-design/
While the 20th century models of organisation have shown themselves to be reliable for the provision of certain services, they have equally shown themselves to be unable to deal with present and emerging major social and environmental issues. They can also be prone to various types of corruption.
Sooner or later, a political party operating with the same outmoded 20th century mentality, will try to find solutions to the mismanagement of state finances by insisting that we move to super-councils.
Combining Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama (for example) might appeal to the bean-counters and politicians alike in the name of ‘efficiency’.
This MBA notion of efficiency is based on a very narrow interpretation of community costs. It does not include the very real costs transferred to people in community.
But more importantly the move to super-councils represents another instance of community disempowerment and disengagement by taking the decision-makers further away from life in our everyday communities.
As it stands, constitutional recognition of local government will do nothing to stop this process.
What is required is a 21st century model of local government which actually includes effective and systematic community participation in the decision-making process.
I am not talking about the lightweight reference groups, council kiosks or neighbourhood forums which presently make up the suite of ‘community consultation’ methods in mode on the late 20th century.
What we need is the organisational means to bring an increasingly ‘unearthed’ decision-making back down to earth.
Rather than going further down the old paradigm pathway elevating the old 20th century model of local government to super-councils (for example), we need to be turning our minds to new forms of organisation which re-centralise local government back into the places where we actually live.
The present Ward level may be an appropriate level – with some finer tuning to reach into the ‘village’ level. We have some great new communication technologies as well – why not use them?
In an ideal world the Australian Local Government Association would be taking the lead in these matters – perhaps by generating a discussion paper on global best practice, and by putting its resources into the task of encouraging a much wider community discussion about what model of local government would work for us.
In the absence of that leadership, it is up to us to ensure that our interests are not overlooked in any rush to gain constitutional recognition of local government.
We can do this by raising issues of effective, systematic and well-resourced community participation in local government decision-making whenever the topic of constitutional recognition is raised.
If we don’t speak up for ourselves, rest assured, no-one else will.