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Councillors dominate public budget meetings

Two public meetings held last week in Maclean and Grafton, “to outline the Clarence Valley Council’s draft financial and other plans for the 2016/17 financial year and beyond”, were dominated by questions posed by councillors.
Eight and seven members of the public, respectively, attended the Maclean and Grafton meetings; councillors Williamson, Toms, Baker, Simmons, Hughes and McKenna attended both meetings and Cr Kingsley was present at the Grafton meeting; Cr Lysaught lodged a formal apology for the Grafton meeting.
Corporate director Ashley Lindsay’s presentation to the public was praised by former Maclean shire councillor Bill Day at the Maclean meeting, and received appreciative applause at the end of the Grafton meeting.
Cr Karen Toms said, however, that she was concerned that the council had been less than obvious in its advertising of the meetings, pointing out that it was not featured on the rolling banner ads on the council’s home web page.
“Surely the fact that our documents are on public exhibition should have been a major thing across the screen?” she said, wondering if that was a reason for the low turnouts.
“We need to get better at putting those things [the detailed papers] out there because they are very different to what we are looking at tonight, [a selective presentation of the budget and operational papers].”
The documents can be accessed by clicking on a link, Consultations and public exhibitions, in the ‘Quick Links’ section.
The mayor, Richie Williamson, subsequently wrote in an email to Cr Baker, who asked specific questions related to the interview with Ashley Lindsay in last week’s Independent, that, “on the wider matter of questions from councillors … at public meetings, it’s my view they should not be allowed, councillors have ample time to ask questions formally and informally (and on the public record if required)”.
“Questions like last night’s, robs the community of valuable time to have their questions asked, considered and answered.
“I guess a bit of grandstanding in the run up to an election was on show.”
All of the councillors were privy to the email exchanges that were a result of Cr Baker’s questions, which he provided to Mr Lindsay before the meeting.
Councillor Margaret McKenna said she would have liked to see more people attend so “the councillors don’t hog the microphone”.
“Maybe we should request that councillors stay at home,” she quipped.
Councillor Toms agreed that we “certainly need more people here, but councillors are ratepayers, too”.
She said that she didn’t think CVC was “telling the community about the most important thing [on the website], I’d hoped it would have more prominence that the cleanup … we’ll have to do better next time and have more people in the future”.
Submissions from the public close at 4pm on June 10.