13 OCTOBER 2010
All Councillors were
recently asked by the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner whether, as individuals
or as a group, achievements at the end of their second year in office
were as hoped for. They were also asked what were high and low points,
what aspects were disappointing and what positives they would like
to see in the remaining two years of term.
Responses were published
in the Wednesday October 6 edition of the papers. On Page 2 the
Mayor put his view on the Lifeguard crisis by reprimanding the Surf
Lifesaving Association’s spokesman for having the audacity
to tell less-experienced swimmers to avoid unpatrolled beaches like
Tuross. Who was it who irresponsibly withdrew the funding for the
Lifeguards Mr. Mayor? Whatever you say, you cannot shrug off your
responsibility to the ratepayers, Council employees and visitors
for the fears and anxiety caused by your somewhat petulant and threatening
stance that this, and other service funding cuts needed to be made.
What contribution have you and your Councillors made to curb the
bureaucratic growth and uncontrolled spending by Council’s
Later on in the paper
the mid-term reports from those seven Councillors who bothered to
respond (Councillors Morton and Dance abstained) make one wonder
where some of our representatives have been for the past two years.
The Mayor would like us to believe more of his spin and we note
that “real hope was to see respect and decency restored between
the Councillors and the public” and is “pleased to say
that this has happened”. To my mind there is vast disappointment
in the community that the Mayor and Councillors are almost irrelevant
- see Councillor Vardon’s reference to this perception. To
paraphrase Councillor Pollock - Councillors are unable to control
Councillor Allan Brown
has gone closest to identifying the structural problems underlying
community concerns by noting that “those elected, including
the Mayor, are responsible to the community and not the other way
around”. He also voiced disappointment “in the attitude
that ratepayers are just the income stream, when in fact they are
the owners of Local Government”. Councillor Kowal acknowledges
the lack of open and transparent policies and decision-making. Councillor
Pollock ‘s recognition of the need for significant cultural
change within a large section of Council’s staff is most pertinent.
Councillor Vardon, in
his report, acknowledges that community consultation sessions have
been unsuccessful because the “arrangements weren’t
right” and it appeared people were “told” not
“asked”. Whilst this much is acknowledged, the problem
is that Council refuses to accept, and continues to ignore, very
strong feedback - including constructive criticisms - given at various
Sadly, Councillors are
treated as being irrelevant by the General Manager – and the
Mayor is not helping to resolve this issue nor to make the business
of Council more open and transparent. Did you know that:
Members of the community
can make submissions by appointment before Council Meetings, but
these submissions are not minuted.
Mayoral minutes can be
added to Meeting agendas after the close-off time for members of
the public to arrange a submission.
Council Meetings are
no longer electronically recorded to provide an accurate record
of what is said and by whom.
Minutes do not record
“debate” just the motion and whether it was carried
or not. If desired, Councillors must specifically request that a
vote against a motion be recorded in their name.
Councillors are restricted
to two questions without notice at Meetings.
Councillors receive a
weekly emailed Newsletter which is labeled “Confidential”,
thus effectively gagging any discussions outside Council of any
matters mentioned whether properly confidential or not. Such matters
can include answers to questions raised during open sessions of
And that Councillors
are not allowed to talk with staff when inside the Council building.
How long will ratepayers
keep trying to raise issues when they are treated with such contempt?
No wonder community attendance at Council Meetings is almost non-existent.
Speaking of treating ratepayers with contempt - by now you most
likely will have heard that, at a secret meeting of Councillors
a month ago, the General Manager was voted a 5.5% salary rise PLUS
an extra two (2) weeks’ annual vacation. This, on top of the
8% pay increase received last year. One wonders what could have
motivated the Councillors (with the exception of Councillor Scobie)
to make such an insane decision.
The delusional Mayor
has, in effect, justified the unconstitutional payment of $100,000
to former G.M. Levy on the basis that Mr. Levy did not receive any
incremental pay increases during his term of office.
It has been apparent
for some time that the ineffective but popularly elected Mayor has
the misguided notion that he has a mandate to tell the community
what is good for it and he is largely influenced by the General
The dysfunctional group
of largely incompetent Councillors is divided between themselves,
dominated by the Mayor and ignored by the General Manager.
The Eurobodalla Ratepayers
Association is absolutely disgusted by the secret and confidential
process which has led to this profligate salary increase (a total
the equivalent of 9.3% when others on pensions are limited to 3%
Councillors should be held to account.
The ERA is seriously
a petition to the Minister
and suggests that all ratepayers
should voice their objections.
We are about to ask the Minister why Eurobodalla Shire Council undertakes
a wide range of non-core community services not undertaken by other
Councils, why valued community services and activities are being
penalized and why ESC is involved in unprofitable commercial ventures
best left to private enterprise. A critical appraisal of staff organization,
numbers, effectiveness, qualifications and experience is justified.
Convenor – Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association Inc.