I promised I’d update everyone on last night’s council meeting, the first of the new term. In fairness I knew going in that, although the agenda was light, it would take longer as so many of the participants were new to procedures and process, including the chair. But did I expect painful.
No. Oh my, and painfully long winded it was.
Despite the mandatory back slapping of their success and the announcement by the new deputy mayor Cllr Hadid that they would work with everyone on council, they did manage to avoid sharing the committees with anyone other than their own majority. Liberal representation on the Major external committees like WESROC etc. were a given, but to do a whole song and dance about inclusion and then excluding Labor completely, was farcical.
It was made clear by the Liberal majority, on numerous occasions throughout the meeting, that they had a mandate, that this is what people wanted. And so I suspect that exclusion of all other voices on council is precisely what we will get.
Our Mayor, Ned Mannoun, struggled, obviously, with being unable to put forward motions and vote on any others put forward his hand reaching higher than most on nearly every occasion. At one point writing a motion on a piece of paper and taking it to another councillor to put forward. A new approach, and not a habit of our former mayor, and unfortunately, subtle attempts at guidance were ignored.
CCTV got a huge airing, I have to agree with Cllrs Harle and Waller on this, the State Government cost shifting to councils is enormous. The fact, as the Mayor mentioned, that Superintendent Ray King wants CCTV should not mean that we the rate payers should oblige. My belief is that the councillors work for us, not the NSW Government or the NSW Police Force. In my opinion for CCTV to be effective as a tool for catching perpetrators of crime it should be in the premises of businesses and overlooking the public thoroughfare, as is the case in Melbourne which recently assisted police in the Jill Meagher case. For council to make it happen and be productive they should work with Business owners/operators and offer a system like our Façade Program; where installation of quality surveillance products when installed a rebate from council could be made available. Guidelines for quality etc. could be made a prerequisite, as with the Façade Program. It would cost us less initially and certainly in ongoing, long term costs. And potentially cover a greater area. Cllr Balloot is concerned about safety as are all of us, but as data provided by Cllr Harle indicated, most fear-mongering is perpetuated by the companies wanting to sell those same products, and, of course, our Mayor in the local press.
Great attention was given to the 5 core pledges of the Liberals at the election, CCTV, as mentioned, and fiscal accountability/responsibility.
Cllr Hadchiti was in fine form last night offering all manner of changes to documents and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPA). I was very concerned to see the new Liberal councillors blindly accept the motions without actually seeing them, offering page numbers as part of the motions without actually seeing the changes.
Cllr Hadchiti’s amendments included removal of items like the vegetation report requirements in a VPA document, which I disagree with, especially as regards environmental matters in planning agreements. A big concern is that some councillors will see their expertise as greater or more important than the accredited specialists we employ on council to protect our interests as a city.
Cllr Hadchiti also announced Liverpool is open for business. I hope that means we encourage business development and investment here, because he was otherwise light on details.
Of particular interest now is that No. 1 Hoxton Park Road is again being opened to Expressions of Interest for Sale or Lease. One has to wonder if this is the death knell for this huge Liverpool Asset. A recurring theme in the agenda and comments this month was that Liverpool has an ‘oversupply of open space’. That means in the council administrators opinion we have too many parks and open spaces. Yet I know we are the envy of many local government areas that are jealous of our great green spaces. We must be diligent and protect these wonderful spaces for our future. Once they are sold and redeveloped, they are gone forever. As Liverpool’s population expands, these green spaces will be of increasing value to all of us. And so must be preserved for the well-being of all the families in Liverpool, who use them now and will, increasingly moving forward.
Two things to note, presently all committees are being re-evaluated some perhaps to be discontinued and others changed, this is on the agenda for next month’s meeting and it is hoped that community participation will be encouraged, not stifled. Secondly, the day change, next month’s first meeting will be on the Monday, however from there they move to Wednesdays. This is to allow greater time to read the business papers for both councillors and the public, a good thing. Precious few councillors read anything last term; let us hope this new time frame for meetings will mean a well read, well prepared council going forward. Cllr Hadchiti has embraced the idea, and I hope he will, in future, provide more detail to the motions and changes he puts forward on the night.
New Cllr Mamone did express repeatedly what many councillors and gallery found contagious, either from boredom or tiredness as her yawning at one point became quite infectious with many councillors including the Mayor joining the chorus. Hopefully, one of two things will happen; either she will become accustomed to the long sessions; or, better, these meetings will finish before 11.16pm like last night’s. Given there was a particularly light agenda, I predict shorter sessions as the council becomes accustomed to process and procedure.