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Mitchell Shire Council promises to ‘do better’ with petition responses

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MITCHELL Shire councillors have vowed to do a better job of responding to community concerns, promising to ‘close the loop’ by communicating the outcome of petitions lodged with council.

At last month’s council meeting, Cr Fiona Stevens moved that officers be required to prepare a report within two months of receipt of a petition advising council of the outcome of the petition.

Cr Stevens said the current council process was for officers to provide a written response to the first named signatory on a petition but did not provide transparency for the remaining signatories or councillors to allow them to understand the outcome of the petition.

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“People go to the trouble of lodging a petition with us, we table it and we never see or hear of it again. That is not fair to the people and it’s incomplete in our management of community concerns,” she said.

“It’s not just for the community, it’s for the councillors. We want to close the loop.

“We want to know, if something has been brought to our attention, that the right area within the organisation has got it, they’ve acknowledged it, they do something about it and they bring it back to us to complete the circle.”

Cr Stevens’ motion found universal support from councillors.

Cr Louise Bannister, a vocal advocate for greater council transparency, said it was about ‘respect for community’.

“They put a lot of time into these petitions and a lot of passion towards the outcome,” she said.

“It’s a step towards greater transparency and greater accountability of council, but also a step towards building a better relationship between council and community members and showing them that we’re here to listen and respond to reach the outcomes that community envisage for their towns and the shire in general.”

Cr Rob Eldridge said a frustration shared by councillors was that community feedback was often undervalued.

“That’s not to say we don’t take it on board, but sometimes we need to feed back to people exactly what we value, and that is that their input is taken on board,” he said.

“There is a lot of frustration for people in the community around engaging with council, and that acknowledgement encourages people to get further involved.

Cr Annie Goble commended Cr Stevens for changing council’s status quo.

“It’s very easy to continue to do things as they were always done … but what I see in this notice of motion is rational and sensible questioning of a practice that we have accepted,” she said.

“I encourage people to question what we do and why we do it, and most importantly [ask] ‘can we do it better?’”

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