By DANIEL LO SURDO
Inner West Council has decided to halve the amount of Council Meetings taking place in 2021.
The recommendation to decrease two monthly meetings down to one was made official in December when a majority of Councillors led by Mayor Darcy Byrne expressed their support for the motion.
Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie, who voted in favour of the proposal, believes the change will create a streamlined governing process that will better serve Inner West residents.
“I’ve been concerned for some time now that our meetings haven’t been effective or efficient when it comes to delivering the best outcomes for our community,” Lockie told the Inner West Independent.
“The previous schedule left [Council staff] little time to implement decisions, or brief Councillors on matters of strategic importance.”
Inner West Council had initially adopted a cycle of one meeting per month, however difficulties with efficiently dealing with Council business comprised a subsequent schedule that included meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month.
The new schedule will provide Councillors with further opportunity to fulfil their roles in the Inner West community.
“Allowing more time to do these briefings is critical,” Lockie said.
“We need to fully understand and work through complex issues on behalf of our community, and reform our meeting processes.”
Inner West Councillor John Stamolis condemns Labor-led motion
Independent Councillor John Stamolis, one of six representatives opposed to the recommendation, believes the move stems from a desire to control public opinion of Mayor Byrne’s Council for the upcoming Local Government elections in the first week of September.
All five Labor Councillors, spearheaded by Byrne, joined Councillors Lockie and Victor Macri to form a majority in favour of cutting Council meetings in 2021.
“We’ll move to one of the lightest workloads of any Council in the nation,” Stamolis told The Independent.
“It is failing the public, it is failing the community and it’s a desperate political move to close down our Council from public scrutiny and public transparency.”
With Council currently undertaking their rates harmonisation process, recruiting its new General Manager and dealing with continued financial stress, Stamolis disclosed to The Independent that the fortnightly meetings were already teeming with affairs.
“The meetings are overflowing with items already,” Stamolis said.
“Not only [now] do Councils have half the time, the public now have half the time and half the issues to [discuss] in an open and transparent forum.”
The altered meeting schedule will now match those of the neighbouring City of Sydney and Canterbury-Bankstown Councils, that both meet monthly.
Council will now meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month of 2021, except for July’s recess, September’s elections, and December’s Christmas.
Councillors will be briefed in late January/early February to improve the efficiency of the meetings while maintaining their legal integrity and compliance with the Code of Meeting Practice. Obtaining practical alternatives to the large amounts of Notices of Motion could also be explored. The new meeting cycle can be subjected to review in May 2021.
The Local Government Act 1993 requires Council to meet at least 10 times a year, each time in a different month. Inner West Council meetings will continue to be held remotely under the health advice of the State Government.