Keeping information from community, councillors disastrous
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
PITY The Gympie Times doesn’t have a comedy section.
Mr Plant’s letter of November 2 would fit well. He has obviously been taking smoke and mirrors mathematics lessons from his neighbour.
I must admit I am not so bored with my life that I would pore through about 11 years of minutes but I did study 2008 and I did note some relevant facts from the past 11 years.
His comparison of the number of in committee items is obviously slewed by the fact that many legitimate in committee items have been discontinued.
In the days when we had a real council, we would have two days of budget meetings each year which produced for example in 2008 a total of 28 “in committee” items.
Searching minutes for the last three years, it appears that draft budget meetings don’t occur or are not minuted thereby hiding a lot of in committee items.
Also in the days of a real council we had regular agenda items listing properties with outstanding rates, matters before the courts, current and potential disputes, etc.
Those reports were part of the process of keeping councillors up-to-date, and obviously, it was entirely appropriate that those lists were in committee.
Naturally, Mr Plant neglected to mention that these agenda items have also been discontinued. And that is part of the problem.
When council has only 12 or 13 half-day meetings per year (compared to 60 or more full-day meetings per year in previous councils) not only is less information available to the community, but also there is a vast amount of decision making completely hidden from public scrutiny, compounding the fact that his statistical analysis is a completely illogical comparison.
Comparing the number of in committee items when most items don’t even come to council is simplistic and misleading.
Another warning sign is the preordained appearance of the meetings.
It is a fact of life that councils face numerous contentious and controversial situations.
It is utterly improbable that all councillors hold the same view on every issue facing council, but to the casual observer at a council meeting, it would appear that (contrary to the spirit of the Local Government Act) consensus has already been established at some unminuted meeting prior to the general meeting.
The actual number of in committee items is only a minor problem.
It is the nature and quantum of the information that is taken into committee or not even reported to council at all that is the real problem.
Mr Plant’s attempt to defend the CEO is admirable, but I can’t help reflecting on the findings of the Wilan Commission of inquiry on the Port Maquarie Glasshouse which was critical of the fact that information was withheld from the community and the council, with disastrous results on several fronts.
I would hate that to happen here.