Councillors to think – freely

THE region's elected representatives have unanimously decided that they need to meet regularly away from the influence of the bureaucrats who do their bidding.

Cr Stephen Schwarten's proposal to freeze out senior officers like chief executive Evan Pardon and his senior management team won unqualified support from his colleagues.

“There's an expectation out there by the public that it is the councillors who should lead the council, but we are being trapped by the formal process of meetings and agendas,” he said.

Not that he is proposing a Town Hall revolution.

He believes the mayor and 10 councillors should meet every couple of weeks over a meal to “discuss matters of mutual interest and concern” without the shackles of formal process or the input of officials.

“There is a need for councillors to meet independently of officers for informal discussions,” he said, as he told his colleagues he believed the council was being run by its senior staff and such meetings would be a “greater service to democracy”.

The senior managers had regular meetings without councillors, he said. Councillors should do the same.

Although it went unsaid, the inference was that it would be an opportunity for the councillors to talk about the performance of their staff.

Cr Schwarten chose his words carefully, saying it would be a chance for the councillors to get to know each other better, exchange ideas, raise issues and discuss feedback from the public without interference from officers.

Cr Bill Ludwig asked if the idea was to meet in private so councillors could build a consensus on issues away from formal meetings where votes were taken and debates held with the press and public present.

Cr Schwarten assured him the meetings, would be to exchange ideas, not create a caucus.



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