Mitchell Shire Council will review the way councillors report on their activities in the community, with Cr Fiona Stevens suggesting current councillor delegate reports are not ‘hitting the mark’.
Each year councillors are appointed to serve as delegates on committees for groups across Mitchell Shire.
At each council meeting, councillors are able to submit reports on their activities as a delegate for each month.
At last month’s council meeting only Cr Rhonda Sanderson submitted a report, with nothing from the remaining eight councillors.
Cr Stevens called for a review of the way delegate reports were handled, saying the public was likely to misconstrue a lack of reports as meaning councillors were not active in the community.
“It’s a report that councillors are meant to be submitting and … only one of the nine [is] submitting it. That says something: there’s a problem,” she said.
“We all agree that transparency is a great thing and we’re all in favour of transparency.
“Is this the best we can do? I think we can do better.”
Cr Stevens said a review of the reporting process would provide clarity on how councillors could communicate their actions more effectively.
“At the moment it doesn’t appear to be working. This is about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, this is about looking at best practice, reviewing our current practices to see how we might do better,” she said.
“We need to tailor our responses to what the community expect of us.”
Cr Sanderson said delegate reports were a feature of many councils across Victoria and could take many forms, including oral submissions at council meetings.
She said council changed its delegate reporting process in 2016 to exclude assemblies of councillors because of their inclusion under a different agenda item at each meeting.
“It is a great opportunity for councillors to promote activities, particularly for local groups that we’re part of. It looks like there is room for improvement here,” she said.
“There is an obligation when people become a councillor and then step up and take a role as a delegate on a committee to report.”
Cr Nathan Clark said reports were currently at the discretion of councillors but he would like to see ‘a better way … [of communicating council] activities with the community’.
Cr Louise Bannister said a review of delegate reporting could be an opportunity.
“Maybe this is a chance to expand the reporting in our meetings every month to include the other activities councillors partake in. What additional things do the community want to know?” she said.
“I’ve lost count of how many surprised faces I get when I tell people what a councillor’s role actually involves. There are lots of things we do that I think the community is not aware of.”
Cr Stevens’ motion was carried unanimously.
Council officers will engage with the community to investigate ‘effective and innovative ways to share … information’ before reporting back to council.