Friday, September 19, 2014

Consulting our committees

THE agenda documents for our council's monthly meetings are a lot like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. And so it was last Friday when I received my papers for last night's meeting. A fortnight after receiving a draft revision of the Terms of Reference for the council's Special Committees, there it was in the agenda - up for formal consideration without having been seen by most of those committees.

The draft document proposes considerable changes to the rules governing our committees and it is only fair that the committees and their members are asked to comment. So I'm grateful that my fellow councillors supported the motion I put to the council last night: "That the item lay on the table for one month to allow for consultation with council's Special Committees before a decision is made on the new terms of reference."

These were my speech notes: "Mr Mayor, having waited a year for this report, it has now been rushed through without consulting those it will affect the most - the members of our Special Committees. There are several items in the proposed Terms of Reference that I find to be more than a little worrying but the first problem is in the area of consultation.

"The general manager's report states that consultation with the community, experts and stakeholders is not applicable. It is applicable, and it is always applicable when we are proposing to change the rules we expect people to abide by. I should not need to remind council that we should be grateful for the voluntary work carried out by our Special Committees and the very least we owe them is the right to be consulted.

"Last month's decision to determine the new Terms of Reference no later than our October meeting still allows ample time for consultation before a decision is made. I have already sent a copy of the proposed changes to the committees I serve on, and wonder how many other councillors have done the same."

In my closing remarks I asked that the draft Terms of Reference be sent to all our Special Committees (there are about 15) with a request that feedback be returned as quickly as possible. The report containing the Terms of Reference can be read by downloading a copy of the agenda document here. Anyone wanting to discuss them is welcome to contact me or their designated councillor representative. A list of most of the Special Committees and their councillors can be found here.

Last night's council meeting also received the first minutes of the recently-established Magra Recreation Reserve Special Committee and approved three new members for the Friends of Willow Court Special Committee.

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