Delegated authority move divides council

MORE matters will be dealt with at council’s committee level rather than being voted on by the full elected council following a transfer of power.

Shoalhaven City Council’s Development, Policy and Resources committees have been given delegated authority to determine selected matters.

Issues that can be determined under delegated authority will only go before the full council if three councillors vote against the motion.

The move has angered Councillor Andrew Guile who accused Shoalhaven mayor Joanna Gash of using the move to hide important issues from public scrutiny.

“In conjunction with Friday night meetings and the other behind closed doors meetings like the Financial Strategy Sub-Committee all these tactics have sought to reduce media coverage of issues that are important to the Shoalhaven community,” he said.

“The reality is that media cannot be expected to attend all of the core committees, yet residents rely on this coverage to hear about issues of importance in their community.

“It also means that there is less scrutiny of the behaviour of the Gash ruling block with their shutting down of any opposing viewpoints on a regular basis.”

Cr Guile said the controversial Development Control Plan for the Huskisson 3G zones that had been up to five years in the making was rushed through in a committee with attempts to return it to a full meeting refused by the Mayor’s ruling block.

“Some councillors and community members believe this is one of those larger and more controversial issues that should go to the full council and if the mayor was true to her word, then she would not have put this through under delegation.

“In its first 100 days in office, the Joanna Gash council has established a tone at the top that is characterised by secrecy, obfuscation and the avoidance of scrutiny.

“As this filters down through the organisation over time, we can be sure that this will result in less confidence and trust from the community,” Cr Guile said.

Cr Gash said the change to delegated authority had not affected the current deputation system with local residents still encouraged to make deputations at core committee meetings.

She said with delegated authority in place at the core committee meetings, deputations provided community members with an opportunity to comment on issues prior to determination.

“Deputations to committees are an important way for community members to have direct input into decision making and this will continue under the new committee delegation system,” Mrs Gash said.

“By delegating authority to the core committees council has been able to determine a number of recommend-ations without having to rehash the issue at the ordinary meeting, allowing these meetings to be more streamlined,” she said.

“Obviously the larger and more controversial issues will always go before the full council however I have been very happy with the way delegated authority has played out already.”

AT ODDS: Crs Guile and Gash are in dispute over committees being given delegated authority to make decisions.

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