The Agenda for Tuesday night features several items of real importance. Both focus on governance. This post concentrates on the Notice of Motion officer report. Our next post will feature the ‘new’ Councillor Code of Conduct with its even more draconian measures designed to gag councillors and strengthen the walls of secrecy.

NOTICE OF MOTION

For those unfamiliar with the term, or its significance, a notice of motion is a means for an item/issue to appear on council’s agenda and hence to be discussed by full council in an open meeting. What it also means is that an individual councillor, or two councillors, (ie a minority) are able to ensure that council considers what might otherwise never see the light of day. In Glen Eira sole control of the agenda is ceded to the CEO. Other councils do not operate in this fashion. But this is Glen Eira after all!

So there now appears after 3 council meetings the officers’ report in response to Delahunty’s request for such a report. It is certainly more benign than Newton’s effort of 3 years ago, but is equally non-informative and includes some wonderfully misleading statements. We note once again that NO OFFICER’S NAME APPEARS AS THE AUTHOR. So much for accountability and taking individual responsibility. When no name is listed than no-one can be accused of sub-standard work or inaccuracies.

The usual arguments are trotted out on cue: councillors have plenty of opportunity to have an item included on the agenda – all they have to do is ask! Another method is the Request for a Report. The anonymous author then gives some examples of the latter that are entirely innocuous and far from contentious – Murrumbeena Road Pedestrian Crossing; Sustainable Design Building Practices; Car Sharing; Murray Road Tree Planting; Elsternwick Plaza and the Toy Library. Of course, the only one from this list that got the nod of approval was the Elsternwick Plaza!

Readers should bear in mind the following scenario. A few meetings ago Delahunty declared that she ‘lost the argument’ about community consultation for the introduction of the Residential Zone Reforms. Okotel also intimated that this ‘decision’ caused her some angst. With a Notice of Motion this issue could have been placed on the agenda. It would then have been discussed in open and more importantly residents would be given the opportunity to hear what each councillor’s position was. Even better, residents would have been privy to the voting of each councillor. But no! Without such a notice of motion everything was done behind closed doors and in secret. Despite the empty words of the councillor code of conduct far too much that occurs at Glen Eira is shrouded in such secrecy.

Another craftily drafted statement from the officer’s report reads: If the Councillor group asks for a matter to be brought before the group, it is. There are several points to note here:

  1. 1.     What’s important is not what the CEO AGREES TO, but what he DISALLOWS and doesn’t agree to!
  2. 2.     The phrasing of the above makes it clear that it takes more than one councillor to have something placed on the agenda – it requires the ‘councillor group’. Hence, the minority of councillors who may wish to represent their electorate on a controversial issue do not have a hope in hell unless it is endorsed by the ruling clique.

Finally, we note the somewhat misleading nature of this sentence – introducing a Notice of Motion could be done by Council directly or via the Local Laws Advisory Committee.  What is not stated is that any change to the Local Law requires formal notification of an Amendment and the call for public submissions under Section 223 of the Local Government Act. It MUST hear submissions and must make everything public. The advisory committee may draft the document but that it still must go out for consultation.

We also remind readers that the Notice of Motion issue is only one single aspect of the Meeting Procedures that needs amendment. Other aspects that basically gag and undermine representative government we’ve already alluded to in the past – dissent from chair, notice of rescission, role of chairperson AND setting clear parameters for advisory committees by including them within the powers of the Local Law. Finally, we also remind readers that Councillor Questions were removed from the Local Law in 2009 with the promise that a new policy be introduced. It is now 2013 and this policy has been left untouched. It is the most Draconian and anti-democratic policy of all and pushed through on the second attempt by Lipshutz and his mates. The gag has now remained for 4 years – out of mind and out of view. This needs council attention now.

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