Councillors stymied by bureaucracy

CL. Lisa Matthews has expressed frustration at council's bureaucracy.CL. Lisa Matthews chairs the women's advisory committee.

Three months after the local government election, Central Coast Councillors are encountering what they consider to be barriers to performing their duties properly.
Clr Lisa Matthews, of The Entrance Ward, has been the first to speak on the record about her experiences as a Councillor, before and after amalgamation.
“Staff have got themselves into a bureaucratic mindset,” she said of her short experience on the newly formed Central Coast Council.
According to Clr Matthews, comments made by Interim CEO, Mr Brian Bell, to the Wyong Regional Chronicle’s sister publication, Coast Community News, that Councillors are able to contact senior managers and unit managers in the Environment and Planning Directorate, don’t tell the whole story.
“Councillors can only call Directors and Executive Managers,” Clr Matthews said.
“I have been told by managers when I have called them that they can’t answer my question.
“Even if it would only take one minute, I have to put it in writing,” she said.
“I can’t be with a rate payer, make a quick call to the right manager and get a quick answer.”
Clr Matthews said that was not the way things worked at Wyong Council before amalgamation.
“History has a bit to do with it, because it was a bit of a free-for-all under the last Wyong Council, but this is a new mob and they do not intend to waste staff time.”
Clr Matthews, who was an employee of Wyong Council and then an elected Councillor, said that she had not experienced such high restrictions on her ability to serve the community in her 17-year association with local government.
“Why can’t I call a manager and ask when are they going to replace a bit of orange plastic fencing around a playground because it is a safety issue?
“I have to put it in writing and then wait a week, not a day, for a response, while the ratepayer who is concerned about the issue is calling me daily, and I cannot give her an answer,” she said.
According to Clr Matthews, the 15 newly-elected Central Coast Councillors have not received a complete organisational chart below the executive level.
In other words, they don’t know which managers are responsible for which units within each directorate.
Again, this was not the case prior to amalgamation, she said.
Clr Matthews said she believed Councillor-representatives needed to be reinstated to both the Traffic Committee and the Consultative Committee, both of which had been in operation throughout Amalgamation.
“The Consultative Committee is made up of staff and the seven unions that represent Council employees, so they discuss important issues, and Councillors had always been on that Committee until Amalgamation,” she said.
“Also, it is frustrating when you have been sitting in six-hour Council meetings, but the real stuff has not been dealt with,” she said.

Interview, Dec 18
Lisa Matthews, Central Coast Council
Jackie Pearson, journalist