The Panel consisted of 60 participants selected to match the demographics of Casey. There was also an interest in hearing from people who do not typically engage with Council.
The group met four times over a month (13 hours in total) to learn about challenges facing Casey, explore options, discuss trade-offs and issues, and finally to decide on recommendations for managing the funding challenge over the next ten years.
The Panel closely represented the diversity of the Casey community. Demographic factors that were used to select participants were:
- English as a first language or other language
- place of birth.
Out of a possible 60 people, 55 people (92 per cent of Panel members) attended all four sessions, or missed just one due to personal circumstances.
The desired outcome of the four sessions was a set of recommendations from the Panel to Casey addressing the long-term funding challenge over the next ten years.
To support the Panel with their recommendations, the project team committed to providing information about the issues, access to independent experts and different opinions, time and resources to discuss views.
Before the process began, Councillors and the Executive Management Team committed to:
- Giving full, fair and thorough consideration of the Panel’s recommendations.
- Providing a response to the recommendations including if they will or will not adopt any of the recommendations, and why.
- Making the People’s Panel deliberations and the Council’s response publicly available.
Participants heard a variety of views and opinions on the challenge through presentations and live question and answer panels. The Panel heard from:
- Mike Tyler, CEO City of Casey
- Wayne Mack, Manager Service & Asset Planning, City of Casey
- Andrew Davis, Chief Financial Officer, City of Casey
- Caz McLean, Manager Organisational Performance, City of Casey
- Brendan Browne, Casey Residents and Rate Payers Association
- Stephen Yarwood, Urban Futurist
Panel members developed recommendations over session two and three through rotating table discussions with Casey staff. The six option topics they discussed were:
- Increase the transparency and accountability of all Council decisions.
- Council to consider changing levels of service or standards.
- Articulate a long-term vision for us to focus on: “small council + big community”.
- Council to outsource more services to reduce costs.
- Council to increase income by fees, charges or rates.
- Establish whether the same level of infrastructure is necessary in future.
At the final session, 29 recommendations were voted on. Of the draft recommendations, 86 per cent of them reached a super majority of 80 per cent or more agreeing or strongly agreeing that the recommendation should be put forward by the People’s Panel for Council consideration.
The recommendations were supported by three overall messages to address the challenge:
- Improve transparency of decision making.
- Look at reducing and changing service delivery rather than reducing infrastructure delivery.
- More willing to increase fees for some services rather than increase rates.
In addition to developing recommendations, overall levels of satisfaction with the process from the People’s Panel were very high. From the first to last session there was a recorded increase in level of understanding about Council’s roles, responsibilities and financial situation, as well as an increased belief that Council is transparent and planning for the future.
100 per cent of participants felt their participation in the People’s Panel was worthwhile.
“I believe this exercise should be repeated, possibly with the same group of people who have already received the background information and knowledge about council responsibilities and process.”
“Great opportunity. Very diverse. Able to have a voice. Met interesting people from all walks of life. Now understand the day to day running’s of Casey Council, with its constraints. First contact with Mayor and Councillors.”
“I came to the People Panel with very little expectation. At the end of the weeks and 4 sessions I am going back with truckloads of good will. I hope I will continue my interaction with the People Panel in the future.”
“I thought the information presented was valuable. I thoroughly enjoyed the guest speakers and hearing the views of other residents.”
Complementary to the People’s Panel, three other engagement tools were conducted concurrently. They were a Youth Panel, Children’s Activities and online Budget Allocator Tool. These consultation activities were designed to ensure that all community members had a chance to get involved, and to gauge high level community funding priorities for the next four years. The results of these activities were presented to the People’s Panel as inputs to their decisions.