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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

A ‘committee’ by another name

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Fast Buck$, Coorabell

Though my broad suspicions were correct, I made errors in my letter published in last week’s Echo.

In that letter I criticised Council for randomly routing some decisions through what I called the ‘Strategic Planning Committee’ without putting them out for public comment and without getting them endorsed by the full Council.

In reality the body I referred to as a ‘committee’ is the ‘Strategic Planning Workshop’. That distinction has vast implications because the strict rules and processes that apply to ‘committees’ do not bind a ‘workshop’, nor is the result of a workshop’s efforts put out for public comment. The question really then is whether the ‘workshop’ is a ‘committee’ by another name.

The concept ‘workshop’ normally applies to intensive sessions designed to impart particular skills to novices or to nut out particular solutions.

‘Strategic planning’ normally refers to the consideration of broad planning documents such as the LEP (Local Environment Plan), the Rural Strategy and town masterplans. I don’t know as yet what other matters this workshop has considered, but certainly it discussed the splitting up of Council meetings into two per month. This subject clearly has sweet FA to do with planning.

Preliminary enquiries indicate with regard to the said workshop that members of the public are included, councillors are not obliged to attend, staff free enter the discussions, there is no quorum, there is neither a published agenda nor a published resolution. In other words zero transparency, zero separation of powers, zero accountability. Whatever apparent consensus is arrived at is subsequently referred to the full Council as ‘based on discussions’ – as perceived by a staff member of course.

In the case of the splitting of Council meetings into two per month I made the mistake of saying last week that the decision wasn’t ratified by the full Council. In fact it was put up at the December meeting.

However, it certainly wasn’t put out for public submissions prior to Council making a decision. Apparently there’s a belief that by calling it a ‘workshop’ the process of public exhibition can be avoided. That’s nonsense.

Let’s cut to the chase: this is in fact a general all-purpose secret short-cut committee where the main strategy is to bypass the normal requirements and to enhance staff control. By embracing it your elected councillors are once again demonstrating their dysfunction.

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  1. It seems Fast Buck$ by calling a “Committee” a Workshop, members of the public are included in that Workshop. How many? One or two or three and those people then are inflated in status by inclusion to represent the broader community for Council. So whatever is decided in that Worksop if the ‘group’ come to a decision that mass of information is then NOT put out for public submission.
    This could be a new era in council movement of nouns, the noun being ‘work’ is shopped and worked to form a new Committee that could come to a more informed decision because the Workshop is so different to the original Committee.
    You should get in on that Workshop


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