Code of con­duct cops crit­i­cism

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

The code of con­duct for lo­cal coun­cil meet­ings is set to come into ef­fect in June, how­ever it hasn’t come with­out strong crit­i­cism.

The manda­tory new code of prac­tice will force all coun­cils to be stricter about con­duct­ing coun­cil meet­ings in­clud­ing time lim­its on speaking and gen­eral busi­ness raised by coun­cil­lors will be lim­ited.

By the end of the year all NSW lo­cal coun­cils will be forced to video live stream their coun­cil meet­ings.

The Ber­ri­gan Shire has ad­mit­ted its coun­cil meet­ings are ‘‘quite in­for­mal’’ how­ever when the code of prac­tice is adopted the meet­ing will be­come for­mal.

At the Ber­ri­gan Shire cor­po­rate work­shop meet­ing, Cr John Bruce was the only coun­cil­lor to for­mally vote against adopt­ing the code.

Cr Bruce said the the new code is start­ing to re­strict free speech and more power will be handed to shire staff rather than the coun­cil­lors, who were elected by ratepay­ers.

The 20 year coun­cil­lor and for­mer mayor said the new code was ‘‘too Syd­ney cen­tric’’.

‘‘I don’t think it’s nec­es­sary to be forced to live stream our meet­ings. We’re re­spond­ing to the fail­ures of oth­ers,’’ Cr Bruce said.

‘‘I’m con­cerned we’re getting to the stage we won’t have any dis­cus­sions on matters at meet­ings, we’ll just move and sec­ond them.

‘‘A dis­cus­sion among the coun­cil­lors in an open fo­rum is a pretty healthy way to do busi­ness.

‘‘We’re start­ing to put pres­sure on free­dom of speech be­cause we will have pri­vate com­mit­tee meet­ings and the coun­cil meet­ing will just be a case of ticking boxes.’’

Cr Bruce also de­fended his de­ci­sion to vote against the pro­posal.

‘‘The other seven coun­cil­lors voted to adopt the pro­posal and I ac­cept that.

‘‘It doesn’t mean to say I have to agree or vote on it. I think some­times we need to reg­is­ter our con­cerns.’’

The coun­cil re­fused to en­dorse the non­manda­tory part of the code re­strict­ing lim­i­ta­tion on ratepay­ers ad­dress­ing coun­cil.

If the coun­cil did adopt the pro­vi­sions the pub­lic must ap­ply in writ­ing to speak, have strict time lim­its, not per­mit­ted to ask ques­tions to coun­cil or staff, and sign waivers declar­ing any con­flict of in­ter­est.

Cr Bruce said it’s sad the NSW govern­ment is try­ing to en­force the rule on coun­cils.

‘‘It doesn’t hurt for coun­cil­lors to hear what peo­ple have to say, even if you agree or dis­agree.

‘‘The point is, it’s a right to free speech and for them to be heard.

‘‘It wor­ries me we’re go­ing to limit peo­ple’s opportunity to have a say about things they’re pas­sion­ate about.

‘‘It’s a slow grind to re­duce the abil­ity of coun­cil,’’ Cr Bruce said.

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