'What consultation?' Letters to the editor

Open letter to Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes in the IPART recommendations concerning the review of the state's rating system - I have done so using the feedback form on the Office of Local Government website.

Unfortunately, due to there having been no public consultation in the Eurobodalla Shire, my feedback on the form in most instances was along the lines of: "As there has been no public consultation in the Eurobodalla Shire, I am unable to properly comment. The government should insist that councils conduct comprehensive information and consultation sessions and then incorporate the community's views in a submission."

Please note that in our shire at least there is a general level of, perhaps blissful, unawareness of the possible changes that, as you said in your June 21, 2019, email to councils, "could change our local government system and impact directly on our communities".

Our councillors and council staff didn't respond to your letter with any dissemination of information to the community, nor was any consultation initiated: very few in the community would have been aware of the possible changes, let alone the deadline for feedback but for the report of council staff's views being listed in the agenda for the Tuesday, September 10, council meeting.

To their credit, councillors did ensure that the council staff report when forwarded to your department will clearly state that the community had not been consulted.

I hope that you will take steps to ensure that all councils will, if they have not done so already, conduct the consultation you stressed in your letter so that proper consideration and feedback can be given before the government proceeds.

Jeff de Jager

Coila

Make your letter count

I spend many cumulative hours either via email or telephone, repeatedly advising our community of this simple fact, as I understand it to be, which is that: when a member of the public emails something to me, or any, or all councillors, or directly to the mayor, or directly to the general manager or a senior staff member, that communication does not necessarily get recorded on our council records management system.

If you are seeking an official timely response, with your communication on the record, a community member needs to do the following:

Address it in the first instance to council@esc.nsw.gov.au to ensure the communication is properly recorded and on file, and that they should therefore be guaranteed a written, recorded reply from the appropriate person within 10 working days of the receipt of the communication. People can of course also address it or cc to anyone else to bring it to their attention. (If it is simply a private or informal communication, then obviously, this does not apply.)

If you only write to individual councillors or staff or senior staff, then it simply remains in their e-mail in-box. The majority of such communications, I would expect, would receive a timely response, but there is no guarantee. Nor is there any assurance that the recipient (or busy ancillary staff if they have them), will put the original communication into the records management system, should that have been the intent.

In the interests of better two-way communication between our community and councillors, and the council bureaucracy, I hope this assists.

Councillor Pat McGinlay

Eurobodalla Shire Council

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