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BULLETIN 13 OCTOBER 2010

Councillors’ Comments at Mid-Term

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 Senior Management?

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 the bureaucracy.

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 Workshop Forums.

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 Council.

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.

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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 Manager.

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% CPI increases).
Councillors should be held to account.

The ERA is seriously considering
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.

Frank Milner,
Convenor – Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association Inc.

 

 

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