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Are Council staff looking to take even more control?

It has come to our attention that the Eurobodalla Council staff have recently briefed Councillors in "Operational Matters". The go-to position that the Eurobodalla Council employs to cover issues they prefer not to be scrutinised or questioned over is to declare them as "Commercial in Confidence" or "Operational Matters". What has been revealed of late, however, is that Council's default position of "We can't tell you because it is Commercial in Confidence" is questionable. The phrase has been so overly used that the community has developed a distinct distrust of anything that staff dare apply the "Commercial in Confidence" label to. In recent years the creation of the new go-to term of "Operational Matter" appears to have been adopted as a response to anyone who asks. They may as well add "It is in the Operational Plan that the community and councillors endorsed so go away because we have delegated authority to do what we want". As we have discovered the Council has been caught out using "Commercial in Confidence", officially found to be unjustified. As to how many other times they have used it without justification is anyone's' guess. When several of our elected councillors were recently asked to describe and fully explain what an "Operational Matter" is, or was, they couldn’t. But their delegated authority to the General Manager and staff has allowed costly decisions to be made under the guise of "operational matter or matters" without the councillors direct involvement. How good is that? Council say "Procedures and codes of practice are considered operational matters on which councils are not required to seek feedback through public exhibition." Who at Council determines what an operational matter is ?

What is the definition of Operational Matters, or an Operational Matter ?

Searching through the NSW Local Act for information and definitions of Operational Matters or Matter that applies to local council operations in NSW, it seems there isn’t one, or any.

Discussions with staff of the NSW Office Of Local Government, confirmed there is no Operational Matter defined or included in the NSW Local Government Act.

Local Council senior management often uses the term for self importance reasons. The correct term is ‘Delegated Authority’, apparently. Delegated Authority is in fact the authority of the a shires residents and ratepayers, delegated to the elected representatives, who quite often don’t understand their elected responsibilities at all, accepting and believing senior management advice and opinion. It seems because of laziness of some of our elected representatives the general community is often being fed large amounts of misleading and misinformation. "Operational matter or matters" is an invented label by senior public servants. New Speak Language.

It is time to look closely at their use of the term "Operational Matters", especially before the new councillors arrive to have the wool pulled over their eyes. You might be interested in the following letter seeking clarification Dear Councilor and the General Manager Dr Dale

It’s widely accepted among your councilor colleagues, all responsible to the shires residents and voters, that you are a great advocate of what has been labeled as ‘Operational Matters or matter’ when some of your colleagues seek answers to questions on various matters the Council deals with. By offering "it’s an operational matter" are you implying it’s not the councilors and people business and that it is just a staff matter?

Are you aware all business being dealt with by council, under the elected authority of the shires population and voters, the peoples delegated authority in the first instance, is the business of all the people, and secondly the elected council representatives?

But what’s really interesting is, where in the NSW Local Government Act can I find the official, legislated definition of what an ‘Operational Matter’ is that applies to all NSW Local Councils ?

As you are apparently a great enthusiastic supporter or advocate of ‘Operational Matter or Matters’ when dealing with the peoples, council, business will you be astute enough to supply a definition as supported by the NSW Government Act's legislation of ‘Operational Matter’ or matters as you often support, to me?

If you don’t, can I then claim there isn’t a legal, legislated, definition of ‘Operational matters or matter‘ and consider it illegitimate when it’s claimed by a councilor or Council as an "operational matter or matters". I suspect we are all being misled by the use of the term ? Allan Brown


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