Sometimes it can be difficult for people to attend Council meetings. Whether it be because of work or family commitments, 7pm can be a tricky time to get out of the house to attend Council meetings each month, but residents’ participation and oversight is vital to ensure that Council decisions are open, transparent and accountable. To increase residents’ participation, I want to introduce 6 monthly ward meetings where instead of residents coming to Council, the Council comes to the residents.
I’ve borrowed the idea from when I worked for Lucy Turnbull when she was the Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney. At the time, she and the Lord Mayor held regular “precinct meetings” in various parts of the city. It was a chance for residents to speak directly to the Lord Mayor, ask questions and raise any issues or problems they were facing. I like this idea because it keeps Council accountable and transparent. This is exactly what we need in Georges River Council.
How the meetings would work:
- Every 6 months, a Blakehurst ward meeting would be held at a central local venue, somewhere like South Hurstville RSL.
- All residents are invited, but the focus would be on issues in that particular ward.
- The Mayor, ward councillors and Council bureaucrats would attend these ward meetings.
- For the first hour, residents can make a 10 minute appointment to meet with Councillors or staff to raise issues of concern.
- For the second hour, there would be an open forum where Council can update residents on local matters, and residents can ask questions.
- The purpose of the meeting is to have an open dialogue with residents – it’s not an excuse to abuse Council staff or to have it descend into a slanging match. If done properly, it’s a great way for resident to air legitimate concerns or ideas to the highest level of Council.
I like the concept of ward meetings because it gives residents a direct voice with their elected representatives, as well as Council staff. And direct democracy ensures that Council decisions remain accountable and transparent.