Division rises over meeting process
A PUSH to reform the way Southern Downs Regional Council holds meetings is causing a rift between councillors, as division grows about the way council conducts its business.
Debate on the subject has been raised in the past, rearing its head again at a meeting of the council on Wednesday - with three councillors voicing their disapproval of the current system.
Currently councillors attend one general meeting and two briefing sessions a month, which are alternated between Warwick and Stanthorpe.
Killarney based Cr Jamie Mackenzie is advocating for a change to shift to fortnightly meetings in 2015.
"When we get a significant annual allowance as a councillor, we need to be meeting formally more than 12 times a year," he said.
"The principles of the Local Government Act are about transparency - to me, the right place for debate is in open council meetings based on prior written advice from council officers."
Cr Mackenzie has also stated he would like to see the council hold statutory meetings in towns other than Warwick and Stanthorpe.
A number of councillors, including Mayor Peter Blundell, disagree with making a change to the way meetings are conducted.
"I don't believe there is a need for a change," Cr Blundell said.
"I know this is a view not held by everyone, but the majority voted to move to the system we have now.
"We have plenty of opportunity to be able to discuss what we need to discuss."
Attending just nine of the 17 briefing sessions held this year, Cr Mackenzie has questioned their purpose.
"Like others, I am concerned about the legality of briefing sessions when it was inferred decisions were made there behind closed doors" he said.
"Instead of written reports that could have been emailed to us, I often felt we were verballed by senior officers in private at briefing sessions on how we had to vote on issues. Concern was raised that records did not reflect what was said by all at the briefing sessions."
Briefing sessions have been the subject of much debate, with Cr Blundell lashing out at those who don't attend.
"I am particularly disappointed that not all councillors believe it is necessary to attend briefing sessions," he said.
"The idea of briefing sessions is to take the stuff we can have a lot of discussion about in a general meeting and talk it over without making a decision."
Cr Mackenzie's views, however, are shared by Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley and Cr Vic Pennisi who have both been vocal about the issue in the past.
During Wednesday's meeting Cr Pennisi told councillors he refused to back the 2015 meeting schedule.
"I don't support briefing sessions in their current format," he said.
"I'd like to see us have that raised sooner than later."
Acting CEO David Tuxford has flagged a briefing session on February 2 in Stanthorpe as the day meetings will be reviewed.
Crs Bartley, Pennisi and Mackenzie voted against approving the meeting schedule for 2015.