COUNCILLORS MISSING IN ACTION
Embargoed until 0600hrs on 9 August 2021
Councillors elected to Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) would be required to attend — in person, or in extraordinary circumstances, online — all council meetings and importantly, all public access sessions under a pledge today from Labor’s mayoral candidate, David Grace.
“The culture of secrecy that pervades the current composition of councillors prevents the public, community members of committees and even councillors from knowing all of the specific details around council decisions,” Mr Grace said, “and absenteeism from meetings is a key reason.”
Mr Grace said his team of candidates — Maureen Searson, Matthew Findlay, Claire McAsh, Deirdre Russack and Jack Egan — was prepared to sign a pledge to attend all council and all public forums if elected, unless there were legitimate reasons not to attend.
“The residents of Eurobodalla deserve open, transparent and accountable representation by their council and frankly, they’re being cheated by councillors not showing up — they’re missing in action,” he said. “Until the delayed December elections, council will now hold meetings at 11am on 24 August, 28 September, 12 October and 26 October.
“While I recognise business hours might work best for some, I want to carefully consider the optimal times for councillors, staff and importantly, the community when it comes to public forums and council meetings.
“For example, community members attending the public forums held a week before council meets, have to be there as early as 9 am and are often addressing only a handful of councillors, such is the contempt with which the sessions are viewed by the current elected group.
“I will be considering making it a code of conduct requirement for councillors to attend all public forums and council meetings.
“Only under extraordinary circumstances would online participation be acceptable,” Mr Grace said.
He said council meetings scheduled during weekday business hours are problematic for residents who work, to attend.
“Many other NSW councils meet in the evening which encourages accessibility to a broader cross-section of the community,” Mr Grace said. “ESC public access sessions during the day restricts participation by working members of the community.”
Public access sessions before the elections have been scheduled for 17August, 21 September and 5 October.
“One of the important aspects of the Eurobodalla Labor for Council team is that our candidates cover the entire shire stretching 100km from South Durras all the way to Akolele,” Mr Grace said.
“We know how important public access to the council is for the community; it’s an issue we consistently hear about.
“Maureen Searson in Batehaven; Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay; Claire McAsh in Moruya; Deirdre Russack in Narooma; Jack Egan in Rosedale; and myself in Broulee provide not only a comprehensive coverage of the shire, but also a ‘willing-to-listen’ network of candidates who have their ears to the ground and our neighbours’ and local businesses’ interests at heart.
“There’s clearly a problem with the shire’s residents getting their voices heard — be it about the Broulee Triangle, the Dalmeny land sale or the disposal of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site — but we’re going to make sure the community’s voice is heard and welcomed by both councillors and council staff.
“We see no reason why we should not incorporate public access sessions into council meetings and declare the two events as formal meetings,” Mr Grace added.
Further information: David Grace, Labor Mayoral candidate M: 0466 487 844