Democracy vs Dictatorship ?

Signe Westerberg Headshots (38 of 102)On exhibition presently are a number of documents this city’s residents should be taking a very close look at:

The link to Liverpool Councils “on Exhibitions” page is http://www.liverpool.nsw.gov.au/council/on-exhibition

I for one am very concerned with the proposed changes to Code of Meeting Practice. In recent times I’ve shared with you some of the behaviour and happenings at council meetings, some as I’ve mentioned expected and some simply inappropriate. I’ve mentioned the use of Mayoral Minutes to introduce items to the agenda that neither the community nor some of the councillors themselves have had prior information on. In other words some councillors are being asked to make decisions based on a 20 minute look at an oft poorly prepared document and expected to vote… or as it happens expected to be laughed at while the majority makes all the decisions that are very often obviously dictated to by the mayor to his minions. What is now being attempted is to thwart democracy yet again and install into policy pretty much that the Mayor can and will do as he pleases without discussion or room for dissent. Hence the title of this piece Democracy or Dictatorship. Clearly having attended all the scheduled meetings to date none of the Liberal councillors appear to argue or debate against the mayor. For years now I’ve heard the bleating that the previous council was under rule of the late George Paciullo and that he ruled with an iron fist. Be that true or not I cannot really say, I rarely got involved in politics in those days as I was busy (as most of you are) doing other things. But from everything I have read even in those heady Labor led days Councillors were able to address their rights as our representatives to argue and debate and the parameters were clearly defined in the Code of Meeting practice. So here’s the rub … read the piece below and you will see the Mayor clearly wants a dictatorship, a situation where no one can challenge his opinion or seek adjustments.

Official (Mayoral) minutes18. (1) Mayoral minutes should not be used to introduce, without notice, matters that are routine, not urgent, or need research or a lot of consideration by Councillors before coming to a decision. (2) If the Mayor (or the Deputy Mayor, if acting for the Mayor) is the chairperson at a meeting of Council, the chairperson is, by minutes signed by the chairperson, entitled to put to the meeting without notice, any matter or topic that is within the jurisdiction of Council or of which Council has official knowledge (cl 243 (1) of the Regulation)(3) Such a minute, when put to the meeting, takes precedence over all business on Council’s agenda for the meeting. The Chairperson (but only if the Chairperson is the Mayor) may move the adoption of the minute without the motion being seconded (cl 243 (2) of the Regulation).

(4) Mayoral minutes may be amended by the Mayor. and/or Councillors. Such changes should be avoided where they will introduce, without notice, matters which need research or a lot of consideration by the Councillors before coming to a decision (Guidelines 2.7.3).

(5) A recommendation made in a minute of the Chairperson (being the Mayor, or Deputy Mayor, if acting for the Mayor) or in a report made by a Council employee is, if adopted by Council, a resolution of the Council (cl 243 of the Regulation).

Is it not bad enough the Mayor has enlisted his minions into a group who can decide on what happens in the City and direct expenditure without the input of all councillors? Is it not poor form that even though they hold the majority their pretence of debate is all but gone and they resort to snickering and laughing as they dismiss any opposition?

This is disgraceful; many long hours go into not only creating a code of meeting practice but the very meetings they are there to protect. Council staff will not be protected from uninformed and possibly dangerous actions/decisions being taken as no due diligence can take place if the Mayor acts upon a whim or worse still the needs of a private  interest without suitable research and reporting. Let alone the fact that no one can challenge this man’s will to enact it as he feels fit at the moment. Albeit they are the minority, 5 councillors were still elected by the community to act on their behalf and this particular document change will all but exclude them in every way.

Submissions will be received by Council up to 5pm Wednesday 19 June 2013 and must be addressed to the General Manager quoting 2012/0124 and either posted to Reply Paid 66322, Locked Bag 7064, Liverpool BC NSW 1871, or faxed to 9821 9233 or emailed to lcc@liverpool.nsw.gov.au.

Also on exhibition is the

HAVE YOUR SAY: GROWING LIVERPOOL 2023 – DRAFT COMMUNITY STRATEGIC PLAN,

DELIVERY PROGRAM AND OPERATIONAL PLAN.

http://www.liverpool.nsw.gov.au/council/on-exhibitionDraft docs on public exhibition

Now I know there is a LOT of reading involved to get ones head around this and for some like me reading it once isn’t always enough , these are very important documents, they decide the direction council takes in the coming years, what is repaired, what isn’t and what our priorities are…..MORE OVER THIS IS STUFF YOU CAN NOT ONLY COMMENT ON BUT IN SOME INSTANCES CHANGE! One resident at last night’s forum has a real penchant and interest in the Pioneer Memorial Park and what has and hasn’t happened over the past years. He raises time and time again the need to finish the restorations and protect the integrity of the Historical park yet it doesn’t get a mention (from what I’ve seen other than $100,000 for headstone repairs) meaning this integral part of our history will remain incomplete yet again.

I ask a lot of questions at these events mostly to find out what is missing or how a decision was reached but sometimes to highlight to those present the types of things they can/should/might or need to notice and comment on. I also ask for more detail as particularly in the finances as I think there is a lot that could be explained better for those of us not financially literate. 🙂

The GM was not in attendance at either of the forums, which is unusual considering the importance they have, although I believed he was at a GM’s conference in Hobart (I’ve since been advised he was not on the guest/attendance  list at the GMs conference) this week we were advised he was in Melbourne…either way at the Bringelly forum (rural) the Director Julie Hately did attend but not so last night. This is all fine as some of the staff (Group leaders)  responsible for creating the documents were in attendance but I guess I’m used to the previous General Manager Phil Tolhurst considering communicating with the public important enough to show up, as he did all 4 of them in the past and he was sufficiently over the documents could often answer the numerous questions of the community himself. Times change as do people and priorities I guess.

There is also still an opportunity for you the community to have a say regarding the changes to community engagement, many of the forum attendees and I believe others have been invited to comment on the Draft Community engagement policy although it is off exhibition. This too is an important document and one that will dictate how the council communicates with you and what opportunities, whether or not they cancel the forums or move them like a roving feast that is hard to find and less frequent…

So please, please spend a few minutes finding out what is happening in our city and don’t think for a minute it will all be fine if you don’t, because I did exactly that in the past and way too much happened that to this day we pay the price for (dismissal, loss of Millions just to name two). It was also nice of councillor Harle to address the topic of one of my previous posts (read back to T-corp) a week or so ago, he’s been told there is nothing to it, so I’m glad he’s happy with that, in fairness to note Cllr Shelton was also in attendance last evening.

Lastly a big congratulations to those who attended the Volunteers Gift of time program on Saturday last, what amazing people who devote so much time to so many important things that happen here in our home town.

I was a little stunned when the Mayor in his opening comments attributed the cost of the event being born by the parking fees in Liverpool, I am hopeful this was a slip of the tongue and that the promised 5 years of all funds being set aside for new parking in Liverpool is still the case but as it may technically fall under the city committee he now has created (mentioned above) I guess only time will tell.  Of course there is a hefty budget for hosting such events as you can see when reading through the drafts mentioned above.

Please if you see something of importance or disagree with my opinions feel free to comment or share them here. I am a believer in more opinions the better and will gladly post yours if you comment .

Sign off

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2 Responses to Democracy vs Dictatorship ?

  1. Peter Harle says:

    Hi Signe,
    With regard to the T-Corp comments, the method used to determine the infrastructure backlog is debatable. Like many statistical calculations they can be used to manipulate the desired outcome. In my view, this is an example of that, T-Corp uses depreciation values to determine the backlog; a more realistic view would be to look at the actual costs needed to maintain current assets, rather than the replacement costs of those assets. Council is in the process of determining the actual costs needed to maintain current assets to an acceptable level. Unfortunately State Government requires what appears to be an inflated amount. Council intends to make available both sets of numbers so that Councillors and the public have a better idea of the real value of the infrastructure backlog. Unfortunately, when asking for State and Federal contributions the lower figures don’t help one’s case for increased funding. Always happy to answer any relevant questions. Clr Peter Harle.

    • Signe says:

      No worries Peter, sadly numbers can be used in many ways. I believe while not necessarily this time, council too uses processes that steer the particular view. Infrastructure backlog is a first world problem of enormous proportion, it is not ours alone. I do wish I could feel we have complete trust in how figures are presented to the community but as I pay particularly close attention I do not as will be evident in my submission on the drafts I will post later today.

      Thanks as always for dropping by I’m always happy to post your comments.

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