Letter to the editor: Closed pre-briefing sessions

It is good to see residents expressing their views in both the local newspaper and social media. It does not matter if the comments are positive or negative, as long as it creates a productive debate. The more residents express their views, the easier it is for the council to be aware of the residents’ expectations.

In relation to Sandra Bill’s letter published in the Crookwell Gazette on May 1, I need to clarify that at the Working Together workshop, it was not the new councillors who wanted to be better informed by staff at a pre-briefing session. 

The new councillors are more than happy with the current system of just reading the business papers prior to the council meetings.

The push for the closed pre-briefing sessions came from the facilitator of the workshop and was based on a model currently being used in the state of Victoria.

Councillors receive their business papers on the Friday before the council meeting, which gives them all weekend to read the papers, make notes, and if necessary ring the general manager, directors or managers during the following week to have any questions clarified.

If councillors then conclude that further discussion is required on any item, then that can occur at the council meeting on the Thursday night, openly, in front of residents.

As a council, we should be aiming to be open, honest, transparent and inclusive and this can only be achieved by having discussions in an open forum and that is at the council meeting on a Thursday night.  

At the council meeting on April 19, I read out a very detailed statement in relation to the proposed pre-briefing sessions and all those who attended that meeting would have been fully aware of why I asked for a legal opinion. 

Basically, I stated I was concerned that by creating a closed pre-briefing session, the council could be acting contrary to its own Code of Meeting Practice and the Local Government Act (LGA).

If the council acts outside its own policies and acts contrary to the LGA, then Sandra Bill’s concerns for the future of this council could come to fruition. We only have to look at the recent problems the City of Blue Mountains had with the Minister of Local Government because of that council not following proper processes.

If people want to go in that direction, then that’s their prerogative, but it is a dangerous pathway to follow. If by obtaining legal advice, it saves the council coming into conflict with the Minister, then I think it is money well spent.

I agreed with Cr Searl when he stated during the voting process: “It would be prudent for council to receive a legal opinion”.

Cr Ron Cummins, Upper Lachlan Shire Council

Have your say