Questions need answering

Ed, Council recently spent $47,485 of Public money on a review of their light fleet by Uniqco. Polite requests to Council for information about that report have All been met with refusals. As a result, I have had no other option than to write the following open letter to Council and to send copies to the relevant State Ministers. If Our Council ever expect to regain Our trust, their very first step needs to be openness and transparency of governance. Letter to Council sent Sunday December 20 to senior staff at Clarence Valley Council. Thank you for clarifying the way Our Council treats simple requests for information about where and how Our money is spent. If there were people in the Clarence who still had any doubts that Our Council preferred secrecy to transparency, then I am sure your letter has alerted them to the reality of the situation. I asked for details of the changes to a consultant’s report (that We, the Public, had paid $47,485 for in July of this year) which occurred after the consultants presentation of their draft to Council and your answer was “No information detailing the changes will be provided.” I asked what guidelines ‘Council use to determine which staff are in receipt of Council’s light fleet vehicles.’ and you answered that “The provision of vehicles is an operational matter” and provided no guidelines with regard to the 182 vehicles in question. Vehicles paid for with Public (Our) money. I asked Council to ‘Please provide the actual numbers of vehicles provided to staff and any other people for private use over the 2014/15 financial year?” and your answer bore No connection to the question. You wrote “There are varying levels of private usage permissible and as such the fees vary and are applied according to the authorised use.” I asked ‘Would you provide details and costs of the motor vehicle running expenses associated with elected member operations?’ and you told me to look up a report. I asked for Council to ‘Please provide the total gross costs to CVC for the purchase and operations (including insurance, maintenance, running costs, etc.) of those 182 vehicles’ and you answered that Council’s annual report mixes these costs up with other items. Your reference to Operational Matters might serve as a reason to not answer questions, from current Councillors but references to Operational Matters is neither a barrier to answering questions, nor sufficient reason not to answer questions, from the general public. Please explain how answering the questions asked would be against the Public Interest Test as mandated under the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) and how there is an overriding public interest against disclosure? John Hagger, The Clarence Forum