After my tirade (Echo 4 May), against proposed changes to the Code of Meeting Practice at Byron Shire Council, I thought I better look at the details again.
Sure enough, there was another sneaky little clause that I hadn’t noticed: the number of times a member of the public may speak during public access is to be reduced from three to two. Currently you can make one speech for or against a single item on the agenda (which is itself an unwarranted constraint), plus one general submission (two minutes), plus one question (this question is proposed now to be limited to items on the current agenda only, a provision squarely aimed at my good self).
Where do the sneaky little proposed constraints come from? What, didn’t you know that it’s the cutely named ‘Strategic Planning Workshop’ (SWP) that secretly makes all the tentative decisions these days, even on policy matters?
So, who is the SPW? Well there’s the rub: we the proletariat are not allowed to know which councillors and which staff members participate in this workshop or what its decisions are. All we know is that whatever happened on that day will appear later as recommendations in a ‘staff report’.
I don’t know what’s happened to transparency and accountability in the Shire. But, I would really like to know who it was that put forward these proposals. No councillor will tell you, because they’re all too dumb to realise that the proceedings of the SPW are not confidential. That is, there has been no vote by Council (as far as I know) to declare confidentiality and if there has been one I’d be curious to know what the stated reasons might be; you can’t declare confidentiality on a whim.
Of course, I’m quite certain that it’s the staff who are responsible; they’re always interfering in decision-making process.
Your elected mushrooms are either too witless to see what’s going on, or too gutless to do anything about it. One or two of them on the other hand will support anything that staff put forward; anything to silence criticism and enhance their ambition.
Members of the public can congregate to observe a virtual meeting. These virtual meetings are happening with increasing frequency at the drop of a hat, meaning that that provision is important for democracy.