Don't just whine - time to put pen to paper and step up
The Beagle Editor (and Eurobodalla Councillors if they are reading this)
For several months there’s been community discussions occurring about the poor performance of our elected Councillors, lack of community involvement and respect when matters are raised with councillors either at meetings or in person. There has also been very public discussion about Councillors and Council refusing to properly respond to correspondence to residents of the shire. In all there is a very long list of allegations of poor attitudes of both councillors and the staff.
The unimpressed need to remember they elected nine individuals to be their voice in Council just over a fifteen months ago. If the elected Councillors are not properly representing the shire’s residents on matters presented to them then perhaps they need to consider what they may doing and the way they are going about “bringing change” might actually be wrong and that they need to reconsider their communications and presentations to the elected councillors. It needs to be remembered the NSW local government act does not require councils in NSW to accommodate residents requests or appearances at council meetings. Individual councils can, if they wish, make provisions for the public to partially participate if they choose. They are not required to do so though.
Residents participation finishes at the ballot box and rate paying in reality .
Local Councils are often referred to as local government which is clearly not correct. All local councils are regulated and have to comply with rules established by the state government and supported by the States elected politicians. Local councils in NSW directly employ thousands of people as well as indirectly employing consultants and other “professionals” like lawyers. The cost of employment and the other associated costs often increase at levels above the usual CPI. All the money needed to sustain a Local Council Empire comes from its Residents and Ratepayers. Empire building of Local Councils is a “Growth Industry” that needs to be controlled and with wages around 33% of total revenue Councils come at a considerable cost to a community that needs to continue to pay higher rates to meet CPI wage rises. Our elected Local Council, Councillors should be controlling ever increasing costs and financial liabilities on our Local Council “residents”. For some reason they aren’t; possibly because they lack the experience or acumen to properly recognise and understand what is required of them. The faster they learn the ropes and learn to stand independent of the advise and direction given by staff the better off we will all be.
More open public participation and involvement needs to be supported by all the Local Councillors for the remainder of this present election term that ends in September 2020.
For the Beagle readers who are interested in Council and Council processes, it would be worth their trouble to look up the Office of Local Governments Code of Meeting Practice Model.
All NSW Local Council’s must include the OLG’s Model Code of Meeting Practise requirements as it identifies, to assist with uniformity in all meetings of NSW Local Councils.
The uniformity however is intended to assist with protecting the Office of Local Government and its requirement it appears, and not necessarily local systems. There appears to be no reference about the ownership of NSW Local Councils by the ratepayers and residents or their direct involvement in meetings. The OLG is currently accepting submissions on the review they are conducting about Local Councils Code of Meeting Practise, however it seems public participation will be a matter for individual councils on a voluntary basis. Although residents and ratepayers fund Local Councils, it appears their opportunity for direct involvement rests with the Elected Councillors. It is considered that some parts of the public participation ( Public Forum ) need to include mandatory actions and reporting as a result of matters raised during Public Forum at council meetings . The Councillors could, if they wish, make local changes to public participation and reporting, and should I think. The problem seems to be that our councillors are not capable of doings so as they continue to take (and accept) advice from staff who are not supportive of such inclusion and accountability that would require action and measurability. It is not known if Eurobodalla Council will be making a submission on the draft meeting code however it is understood that they are very much on notice that if they do as they did last year, of making staff prepared submissions before seeking endorsement from Councillors all hell will break loose. Last year, much to the surprise of Councillors and the disgust of Council watchers, the staff made submissions to the RMS on two occasions seeking retrospective endorsement of Councillors after the documents had been delivered. The other document that they had to retrospectively endorse was an Aquatic Strategy, written by a consultant and delivered as a key determining document to justify not replacing Batemans Bay’s 50m pool. This time Council’s submission will need to go before Councillors, and the community, prior to the cut off date of March 16th. No excuses.
The proposed new codes of “meeting practise” for NSW Local councils will include mandatory requirements as minimum standards for NSW Local Councils meetings to comply with. NSW local Councils (including Eurobodalla) are able to include non mandatory locally identified meeting procedures in their Meeting Codes of Conduct if Councillors agree. You might remember the last time Council included non mandatory locally identified elements in their LEP that bought them to grief and caused massive damage to both Council and Councillor reputation and bought considerable loss of the already diminished trust that the community had for them. Consideration and agreement in any draft Code of Meeting Practise needs to include “Council Workshops” and “Pre Meeting Briefings” locally and should be included in the non mandatory locally identified meeting procedures. “Workshops” and “Pre Meeting Briefings” could and should be open to the general public fully supporting local transparency. Councillors can make the decision for that to occur, and should. The New South Wales Office of “Local Government” would not object to those sorts of local “meeting practise additions” being added to their mandatory Rules. It’s up to our councillors to promote and resolve to include opportunities for more openness and transparency within our local Council.
“Questions On Notice in Writing from the Public” could also be reintroduced as they once were.
For the many who have written of poor Council procedures in these pages I encourage you to make a personal submission on the draft meeting code outlining your views on public participation in council meetings. Please forward your submission by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions can be made up until 16 March 2018. Name and address supplied