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Eurobodalla Council's 2017 annus horribilis in review

Dear Beagle Editor

Our Councillors are now obviously very much aware there’s a number of dissatisfied residents in the Shire. Some of those dissatisfied are going to the trouble of identifying procedural mistakes with council meetings quoting what the Local Government Act requires in relation to correct process and procedure, even going to the trouble of alerting the Council’s General Manager, Mayor and Councillors in writing, doing things properly as the Local Government Act requires. Rather than taking note and independently investigating for themselves the Councillors and staff open laugh behind close doors at the group they refer to as The Usual Suspects readily disregarding the informed advice and guidance being offered to them. What are the Councillors doing to put right the mistakes once they’ve been made aware of them? Nothing. The most recent and substantive error in procedure occurred at the last Council meeting in December 2017. Will the Councillors acknowledge the error, apologise and then force a change that will open the doors of Council in transparency and accountability? Much has been said about our Councillors and Mayor over recent times publicly. Criticism has been levelled at all the Councillors and Mayor over their lack of true communication (not one sided rhetoric) in general and their ignoring one-on-one communication attempts made by individuals with Councillors including the Mayor. All councillors are provided with equipment supplied at the shires residents expense to allow cost free to the elected communications to occur. However, generally the majority of the councillors are not communicating with continued anecdotes of most Councillors failing to either return phone calls or emails. This poor performance of returned communications is however not reflected in the substantial telephone and data costs attributed to each Councillor in financial reports Some of the councillors chose to delegate responses on matters raised to council staff thereby avoiding personal involvement, leaving individuals extremely frustrated and angry. Some of the frustrated and angry individuals, in the end, register so they can attend council meetings to raise matters in front of all their elected representatives including the Mayor and Ex Mayor. Generally those turning up at council meetings are doing so as a last resort hoping that having the Mayor and Councillors assembled in the one place, and with 5 minutes to deliver their issue the councillors might take a genuine interest in the matter being raised. As we all know that clearly isn’t the case. All too often (as has been revealed in these pages) Councillors are distracted by their devices, choose to turn their backs on speakers, carry out conversations with staff and when the opportunity comes for any questions appear to be gagged or appear to be so disinterested that they couldn't be bothered engaging. What are the peoples elected representatives seemingly afraid of when they won’t accommodate two way discussions with the people who elect them attempting to get resolution and answers to a range of issues.? In the coming months it’s understood Council will be reviewing it’s code of meeting practice in accordance with the requirements of the state governments office of local governments and the state Governments Model Code of Meeting Practice rules for NSW Local Councils. The Government does not, by legislation, require individual Councils in NSW to necessarily make provision for Community Participation in Council Meetings or Council Committee meetings of any definition, however individual councils can if they so choose. If the residents of the Eurobodalla Shire want to have more involvement in the workings of council, apart from through their elected representatives and written communications via the Shires general manager, then they need to start preparing convincing submissions for the elected councillors to consider during the review process. It seems that generally the state governments office of local government considers residents have enough opportunities to communicate with their local councils either through the elected councillors or written correspondence with the General Managers at the present time. The Office of Local Government and the local State Member for Bega are fast learning that there are considerable communication rifts in our community that rest solely on the shoulders of Council and Councillors. Legislation governing how local councils operate at this point in time does not require NSW Local Councils to provide for community involvement, even though the community supplies the resources for Local Councils to function. One example of the break down of communication is the purchase of the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. Many have commented, asked and speculated why our Council really purchased the Old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. The issue of purchase, of consultation, of future use remains clouded behind veils of Council secrecy and while it remains so the distrust and disrespect of the Council and Councillors builds. Some of the words used in the state governments present model code of meeting practice include; Integrity, Leadership, Selflessness, Impartiality, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Respect. Let's see what 2018 brings because, to Eurobodalla Council, 2017 was an annus horribilis of their own making that I am sure they would like to move forward from.

Allan Brown



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