Practical evidence of transparency is needed

Forum –

It is good that residents are apparently beginning to take a closer interest in Central Coast Council’s activities than has been the case in the past (“Council receiving a record amount of feedback”, p5, Chronicle June 9).

However, what we need to know now is how much notice is being taken of ratepayer inputs.

In the past, the obvious answer to that has been little or none.

Beyond a computer generated acknowledgement of the submission (and, sometimes, not even that), nobody ever receives a notice of the result of the submission or, heaven forbid, an explanation of why the submission has been set aside, which is the normal outcome.

If increasing numbers of people are making comments on Council proposals, there needs to be an improved system of information on the outcomes of submissions.

The Office of Local Government normally sends a personal response to any suggestion made on a local-government topic.

Admittedly, it usually takes months to get an answer, and the usual result is that the suggestion is deemed unhelpful, impractical, illegal, uneconomical or unnecessary, but at least, one knows that an idea has been considered and that somebody has taken the trouble to reply specifically to the points raised.

Local government is supposed to be the closest to the community, so there should be the strongest requirement for full information to be disclosed to ratepayers about community views on matters where comments have been called for.

This would mean that anybody could, then, judge how responsive Council has been to any criticism of its proposals.

I am not suggesting that we need a referendum on every Council project: one unnecessary referendum at a time is more than enough.

However, let us hope that our Administrator “Mark 3” can find some way to keep us apprised of how far community views have been reflected in any final decision of Council on topics deemed controversial enough to warrant a call for expressions of interest.

Publication online of detailed staff assessments of submissions would be one possibility, as long as the privacy of individuals is maintained in the review.

We are always being assured that transparency is one of the watchwords of the system, so let us see some practical evidence that this is the case.

Email, June 13
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy