The Daily News has scored councillors based on their meeting attendance for the year. See page 3 for a full break down of their attendance.
The Daily News has scored councillors based on their meeting attendance for the year. See page 3 for a full break down of their attendance. Digitally Altered

Some Southern Downs councillors skipping briefing sessions

COUNCILLOR attendance records are in, and it appears some of the Southern Downs elected representatives have been skipping class.

The Southern Downs Regional Council 2014/15 annual report shows that no councillor had perfect attendance at all three of the official council meeting types.

Councillors meet monthly for general meetings, along with regular briefing sessions and the occasional special meeting.

In the 2014/15 financial year, there were 12 general meetings, 15 special meetings and 19 briefing sessions.

Should it be mandatory for councillors to attend briefing sessions?

This poll ended on 08 January 2016.

Current Results

Yes

90%

No

9%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Briefing session attendance was among the poorest for our elected representatives, with only the Mayor and two of the eight councillors attending every session.

The figures have raised another wave of debate amongst councillors about the importance of briefing sessions.

Cr Vic Pennisi, who attended 12 of the 19 sessions, said there was no obligation for councillors to attend.

Cr Jamie MackenzieMeetings: 12Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 11
Cr Jamie MackenzieMeetings: 12Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 11

"In some cases some councillors have been well briefed on the subject matter and may not need to attend, especially if their calendars reflect other commitments," Cr Pennisi said.

"If a briefing session contains information that I am well briefed on, my time can be better allocated elsewhere delivering for people.

"It's a bit like going to a movie that you have seen more than once, should you spend the money and go again?"

Briefing sessions are confidential, and allow councillors to be given information from council staff.

Under the Act, decisions are not allowed to be made in briefing sessions.

Cr Pennisi said the current format of briefing sessions had a tendency to cross the line.

Mayor Peter BlundellMeetings: 11 Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 19
Mayor Peter BlundellMeetings: 11 Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 19

"There have been occasions where decisions have been made at briefing sessions and my understanding is that this is contrary to the Local Government Act," he said.

"The Act demands that I, as an elected representative, should act in an open and transparent fashion and it is difficult to reconcile this and sleep at night under the current approach."

Fellow Stanthorpe-based Cr Cameron Gow, who missed two briefing sessions, said he would be "disappointed" if interpretations of meeting procedures cast aspersions on the sessions.

"State Government department have reviewed our meeting procedure policy, they think ours is pretty good," Cr Gow said.

"Councillors, I believe, should try and be as well informed as they can be; if they can't make it to a briefing session the CEO will brief them personally."

Cr Gow said without briefing sessions, council meetings would be longer.

Deputy Mayor Ross BartleyMeetings: 12Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 16
Deputy Mayor Ross BartleyMeetings: 12Special meetings: 15Briefing sessions: 16

Special meetings also rated highly for councillors not attending.

A special meeting can be called with as little as a few days notice, leaving councillors on holiday or those already with plans in limbo.

Cr Gow had a scheduled holiday when the budget meeting was called in July and participated via video link.

"For the special meetings I was away - often times, some of the other councillors are in the same boat," he said.

"Even fellow councillors wouldn't insist you cancel a holiday."

Personal circumstances including illness, sick relatives and the death of a loved one made up for several absences.



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