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Is it the community's job to spell and fact check sub-optimal Council's policies

The Beagle Editor,

As one of the presenters mentioned in Peter Cormick’s letter of 25 March, I’d like to clarify some aspects of the presentation and why it was made. I was presenting as co-convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum committed to having transparent, accountable and responsive government in our region. For the last two and a half years one of ABE’s main areas of interest has been the quality of public consultation undertaken by Eurobodalla Shire Council. This was in response to strong community interest in improving the content and processes of Council consultations.

Contrary to Mr Cormick’s view, ABEs presentation was not a preliminary submission to a policy review. The presentation identified that the draft Creative Arts Services Policy, that was to be distributed for public consultation, was simply not up to the standard the community has a right to expect. All documentation that goes out for public comment should be accurate, and contain contemporary content that gives community members something to comment on. Vague feel-good statements, unmeasurable performance indicators and content that does not reflect the dramatic impacts of the last three years is not good enough.

The Community Engagement Framework and Participation Plan adopted by Council on 26 November 2019 tells us that ‘Ineffective or tokenistic community engagement can be detrimental to the good faith of the community in the long term’ (P4). It is the job of council employees, and particularly the senior managers, to provide Councillors with accurate, meaningful content. If not then they should be asked to bring the work up to that standard. That is not the job of community members.

ABE has no doubt that the new Councillors are working hard to get their heads around how to make the best contribution they can. But the new Councillors need to build faith with their community, they need to prove that they are different and better than the previous team and they need to be seen to do that. If that means directing Council staff to prepare better documents then that should be done.

Many community members want to contribute to the policies, strategies and plans of Council, but give us material that we can trust so our contributions can be directed and helpful.


Bernie O’Neil

Co-convenor

A Better Eurobodalla

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