Transparency In Council
There are some commentators who would have you believe there is a lack of transparency by your Sunshine Coast Council. In fact, they would have you believe we consider all manner of things in confidential meetings, without any regard for the interests of the community.
Well nothing could be further from the truth.
Our Council only considers matters in confidential session when it involves legal matters or would inhibit our negotiating position on contracts – sale or purchase of land, tender processes, commercial contract negotiations or employment matters.
Given the size of our Council and our progressive agenda to strengthen the region’s prosperity and maintain the lifestyle of our residents, we tend to have more of these matters coming before our Council than many other councils. On average, just less than 20% of all reports considered by Council each year have been considered in confidential session.
In fact, in the current term, our Council has voted to go into confidential session less times than the Abbot Council did between 2008-2012. That is something that our critics don’t want you to know.
Every Council meeting considers an agenda put forward by the CEO. The CEO makes a recommendation whether the content of a report should be considered in confidential session. Any Councillor can vote not to accept the CEO’s recommendation and seek to have a report considered in open session – and the matter is decided by a majority vote. That’s democracy.
What is important to remember however, is that Council does not make any decisions in confidential session. All that Council can do in confidential sessions is discuss the report, ask questions and be provided with information.
The decision must be made in a public meeting.
Contrary to what is often bandied about, development applications are not considered in confidential session. They cannot be considered in confidential sessions.
It is also ridiculous to compare the business of our Sunshine Coast Council with the Noosa Shire Council. There is not one single major infrastructure project being managed by Noosa Council that comes anywhere near in comparison to the projects being delivered by Sunshine Coast Council – so Noosa is no point of comparison.
Our Council has an outstanding record of negotiating contracts for major projects that deliver an excellent outcome for ratepayers. We have achieved this because we don’t show our hand before we get into negotiations with other parties. For example, our Council secured a deal worth at least $605 million to our ratepayers for the operation of the Sunshine Coast Airport. Not bad considering when I first became Mayor in 2012, I was told we would have to give the Airport away.
While people like Chris Thompson have every right to claim whatever they like about our Council, I would encourage everyone to look at his record – because that will tell you more about his actions than his words.
In his last term at Council – 2012 to 2016 – there is not one single occasion when he opposed the consideration of reports in confidential session. He is the last person to be spruiking about transparency.
I recognise however, that we can always do better and this is why I have committed to:
- supporting the introduction of live streaming of Council statutory meetings in existing Council chambers and from the new Council chamber to be built in Maroochydore, subject to the findings of the report due to be considered in May 2020; and
- seeking the support of the next Council to an immediate review of how Council manages and reports on confidential agenda items into the future and to seeking community input as part of the review process.
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