Council's new meeting code shuts out the public

Our Association is very concerned at proposed changes outlined in Georges River Council's Draft Code of Meeting Practice 2019 on public exhibition until May 13.

A number of the proposed changes to the code are not mandatory directions within the NSW Office of Local Government Model Code of Meeting Practice for Local Councils in NSW 2018, and in fact some clauses are contrary to those directions.

To eliminate public forums prior to council committee meetings and apply a limit of only 2 people 'for' or 'against' to speak prior to Ordinary council meetings restricts the public from having a fair opportunity to express an opinion or present an argument to council.

To deny the public the democratic right to speak at a committee meeting prior to a recommendation being made to council is not in the spirit of open government or transparency.

It is at these committee meetings where the majority of decisions of council are made. Our members feel strongly that the public forum should remain part of the order of business of Ordinary Council meetings and councillors should debate matters immediately after the public forum, not after a lengthy time gap where councillors recess to have discussion behind closed doors where bureaucrats can influence the debate, as put forward in Council's Draft Code of Meeting Practice.

The public should be able to witness the debate and the decision making process.

The changes outlined in this draft code stifle the voice of the public by formulating such restrictive community involvement in the council decision making process.

The amalgamation of Kogarah City Council and Hurstville City Council was designed to streamline and reduce the duplication of services and expenditure, not to distance the councillors and council staff from the community. There should be more transparency and openness between the councillors, council's officers and the community.

We strongly urge the public to review the Draft Code of Meeting Practice and provide submissions to council before Monday May 13.

Jeff Powys Hon Secretary

Kogarah Bay Progress Association Inc

The Ratepayers of Georges River are about to be silenced.

They are obviously becoming too efficient in finding unpalatable issues being brought to council by the officers.

It is being proposed ratepayers will be only allowed to address councillors at a time "not part of the council meeting".

The reason is so the council officers can explain to the councillors (all professional people) what the business really means.

In Old Hurstville, then Cr Chris Minns, a true democrat, argued successfully for ratepayers to have the right to address council.

It has been a process for over 20 years and yes sometimes the councillors find the speeches unpalatable. That is tough luck for those who have no wish to represent the people who elected them.

On the night the present elected council first met, I remember a foolish councillor coming up to the General Manager in my presence and asking her "Do we have to continue hearing the speeches before business". Wisely M/s Connolly decided not to answer as the councillor might have learned the true meaning of democracy on the first night.

Should the council decide to make decisions against the wise counsel of ratepayers who often have more wisdom that the new bread of council officers, I can see a rather big bulldozer turning up at the next council elections in 18 months.

Brian Shaw

President, St George District Residents Network Inc.