Ex-councillor airs concerns

May 16, 2018

Make question time more accessible and avoid doubling up on arguments already made by others.

These are among the changes a former Greater Shepparton City councillor is suggesting to improve council meetings.

John Gray yesterday spent a longer-than-usual ‘‘10 minutes’’ airing his concerns with council meeting processes directly to councillors.

The irony of stretching out the allotted submission time at a meeting dedicated to council meeting process seemed to be lost on no-one in attendance.

And chief among Mr Gray’s bugbears appeared to be the fact he only had 10 minutes to make his submission.

Ultimately the time constraints forced him to pick some of the highlights of his submission to a council review of local law before he was ultimately wrapped up by Mayor Kim O’Keeffe.

The former councillor had suggested almost 20 ‘‘inclusions, alterations, addenda and deletions’’ in his submission.

Among the starkest of his assessments was that the local council’s question time process was the worst he’d seen, ‘‘without doubt’’.

He in particular contended the lead-in time to submit a question and commented on there being no question-without-notice option.

‘‘The current format is not working well and several components need drastic revision,’’ his submission read.

He criticised a tendency of councillors to read directly from the meeting’s agenda, but he made it clear he was not referring to incumbents.

‘‘It leads to piffling palaver in the reading, often poorly, of slabs verbatim from highlighted sections of officers’ reports, by councillors (not current incumbents, of course),’’ the submission read.

At yesterday’s meeting, Mr Gray aired concerns about councillors recycling commentary already made by others on motions, turning proceedings into a ‘‘talkfest,’’ and described councillors duplicating already voiced opinions as ‘‘an absolute waste’’.

He questioned the need to surmise items which hadn’t even been debated, or, as he put it, ‘‘to sum up something that hasn’t happened’’.

‘‘It seems to me that before you have a debate, you must have an opposing view,’’ he told councillors.

Mr Gray quoted Banjo Paterson by way of arguing the council’s executive directors could play a more interactive role in meetings, to voice the way the council had decided on the recommendation put to councillors in the public arena. At one point, sensing time was marching, Mr Gray said: ‘‘You can see why 10 minutes is quite an ambitious program... it nearly takes you that long to say ‘10 minutes’.’’

At a council meeting in March, the council had resolved to advertise a draft local law around Procedures for Council Meetings and Common Seal 2018 and call for submissions.

Only Mr Gray chose for his submission to be heard.

The council will now formally consider the submissions before voting on the matter at a council meeting next month.

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