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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Council Matters

Although last Tuesday’s meeting included some significant items, such as an amendment to the LEP (as it relates to Broulee) , it was the two items at the commencement of the agenda that has attracted post-meeting attention – in the form of quite a lot of correspondence with The Beagle. The items in question were not staff reports but a Mayoral report and a Notice of Motion, by Councillor McGinlay. You can see the archived video of the meeting by accessing it on council’s website.

But before getting onto these two items, I must say that the mayor continues to impress as a very capable chairperson. She keeps order, engages in debate, and with councillors, including in offering helpful advice, and with presenters; and it is all done in an easy, natural style.

The Mayoral Report – General Manager’s Performance Review Committee

I presented my views on the Mayoral Report at the meeting and then again, very briefly, to a Beagle reporter, after leaving the meeting (below).

And so I won’t repeat them here except to say that I objected to recommendations 2 and 3 of the three recommendations made (see page 4 of the agenda), which, respectively, require the General Manager’s agreement to the choice of “independent” facilitator of the review process, and that “the review panel be authorised to undertake the annual review of the current Performance Agreement.”

While it is desirable, there is absolutely no need for the GM’s agreement to the choice of facilitator and, in my view, it is not appropriate to require agreement. Why recommend it? And the question of just what is meant by “independent” raises further, obvious questions.

Then there is the 3rd recommendation, that “the review panel be authorised to undertake the annual review of the current Performance Agreement”. As far as the authorisation is concerned, it is not required. Section 223(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993 (LGA) provides the necessary authority – for monitoring performance and, as the most important component of that process, the Performance Agreement. But the reference to “the annual review” is another matter. The frequency of the review should be at the discretion of councillors. And then there is the question of the frequency of the performance review itself – as separate from the review of the Performance Agreement (containing measurable performance indicators). The Mayoral Report did not make any recommendations on the frequency of the performance monitoring itself.

In the end, after some questioning by Councillors McGinlay and Nathan on the matter of the GM’s agreement to the facilitator, all councillors agreed to all three recommendations of the Mayoral Report.

Councillor McGinlay’s Notice of Motion – Licence Applications and Selective Tendering Process

It is this item which excited the most debate of the meeting and has done so since then, as we have seen through views posted on The Beagle.

Councillor McGinlay was isolated in this motion. No one supported him. Councillor Mayne seconded it simply in order to allow debate.

At page 5 of the agenda you will see that Councillor McGinlay recommended significant amendments to the Code of Practice that goes by the name of Licensing of Council-controlled public reserves and associated buildings. In my view, and that of many others, this Code is in need of complete replacement.

I have addressed this matter in previous Council Matters, including the most recent edition. In a nutshell, the Code could hardly be more flawed. Not only is it without legislative basis, it has not been approved by councillors and therefore has no status even as a council policy - though staff have insisted that it is not a matter of policy. They instead insist that it is an operational matter. It could not be more a matter of policy!

If you look at the video of the meeting you will see and hear what transpired including the relatively rare event of Councillor Pollock coming to life, on two separate occasions in fact, in calling for a point of order in response to Councillor McGinlay’s question concerning the independence of the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC) and to deliver his very predictable, strong objection to Councillor McGinlay’s motion.

The motion failed for a number of reasons but, it would seem, primarily because councillors were given to believe by staff that the Code is absolutely water tight. In fact Councillor Tait made that point when he expressed his understanding that, through the independent members of the ARIC, “the process that this tender was done under was [shown to be] 100% legitimate.” The Director, Finance and Business Development, nodded in the affirmative to Clr Tait and then the General Manager said “that was the view they formed. That’s correct”.

Well, anyone following The Beagle will know that it is not correct to say that the ARIC declared that the Code is “100% legitimate”. In fact the ARLIC has said nothing at all about the Code. It appears that there has been ‘some confusion’. The independent members of the ARIC found, very contentiously, that the Huntfest approval process was conducted according to “due processes”. That is a separate matter.

So, those councillors who were persuaded by what the GM said and voted accordingly might like to have another look at Councillor McGinlay’s motion. Fortunately, through the assistance of the mayor – in suggesting a call for a review rather than having the matter deferred (as initially foreshadowed by Councillor Mayne) - Councillor Mayne was successful in having a motion passed that requires that “a briefing be held to facilitate discussion with Councillors on a review of the licence application and selective tendering process”.

This commitment sounds promising, but such a briefing by staff who have been defending the Code to the last man, could hardly be expected to find fault with the Code. So, maybe there is a need for outside assistance. In any event, I believe that it is important that such a review be conducted by way of workshops, open to the public; and in which presentations from interested parties are invited.

But above all of the arguments for and against, for me the most significant aspect of this debate was to see Councillor McGinlay steadfastly argue for what he believes is right, never minding that he was on his own. His integrity and courage stood out.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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