Councillor attendance questioned

Wayne Shoobridge.

A REQUEST for councillor attendance records to be published each month is yet to be formally considered, despite being raised during public question time at the last two meetings of the Derwent Valley Council.

The agenda documents for this Thursday night’s council meeting state that the matter was discussed at a closed councillor workshop last month, but no outcome was recorded.

During question time at the March meeting, businessman and former councillor Wayne Shoobridge noted that the council had paid for elected members to attend Planning Authority Training on February 23 and asked how many had attended. It emerged that the council had paid for training for five people but two did not attend.

Mr Shoobridge followed-up by asking the general manager if he would publish in each month’s agenda document a complete attendance record for each councillor in regard to committee meetings, workshops, council meetings, special meetings and training provided, whether they attended or not. “This is being done by other councils,” he said.

General manager Greg Winton said he would have a discussion with councillors about the matter. “You may be aware that we’ve got some summaries that go in the annual report but the level of detail perhaps that you are after is not contained in the annual report,” he said.

Mr Shoobridge said the reason for his request was twofold. “One, it would appear that some councillors are not attending things that they should be, and two, if you have a look at the agenda tonight and have a look at what councillors have given their report, there’s a hell of a lot of councillors in there that didn’t give one and I think the public are entitled to know what their councillors are doing.”

Mr Winton said the monthly council agenda provided the opportunity for councillors to report on their activities but doing so was a decision for the individual councillors. “The broader question will be determined by the council. We can’t obviously do that tonight but I’ll have that conversation with the councillors, Mr Shoobridge.”

Mr Shoobridge asked if the proposal would be put to the next meeting as a motion but the question went unanswered. He raised the matter again at the April council meeting and was told by mayor Ben Shaw that councillors would discuss it.

“We can certainly talk about it as a council group, maybe at a workshop, and if one of the councillors wants to put a motion or the general manager wants to put a motion… we do have councillor communications [in the agenda]…” Cr Shaw said, before he was interrupted by Mr Shoobridge saying the present set-up was not compulsory.

Cr Shaw: “So, we’ll discuss it with the councillors and if they want to…”
Mr Shoobridge: “Well, [it’s] not up to councillors, I think it should be compulsory.”
Cr Shaw: “OK, that’s fine, councillors can discuss it and then, uh, yep. Thank you. Cheers. And I’ll ask the general manager to write back to you about (inaudible).”

Since the present council was elected last October, only councillors Luke Browning and Julie Triffett have had perfect attendance at open council meetings. Councillors Ben Shaw and Paul Belcher have missed two each, while Crs Martyn Evans, Rachel Power and Anne Salt have missed one each. Additionally, Cr Salt was absent from November’s ceremonial swearing-in, and Cr Evans did not attend the annual general meeting in December.

Under the present system of reporting, councillors who have attended official functions or meetings on behalf of the council in their official role as a councillor in any given month, may provide the details for inclusion in the next council agenda. This system is voluntary and the first meeting of the new council received only two councillor reports, dropping to one for the second meeting. Three councillors reported in January, two each in February, March and April, while the May meeting this Thursday will receive three.

Individual tallies for councillor reports submitted to the first six meetings since the October 2018 election are as follows (lack of a report does not suggest that a councillor has been inactive, merely that they have not submitted their “councillor communication”):

  • Cr Ben Shaw (mayor): 0
  • Cr Jessica Cosgrove (deputy mayor): 1
  • Cr Paul Belcher: 0
  • Cr Luke Browning: 0
  • Cr Martyn Evans: 0
  • Cr Rachel Power: 1
  • Cr Anne Salt: 5
  • Cr Julie Triffett: 5

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