By TONY FOSTER
BRIGHTON Council has an impressive record of transparency and communicating with ratepayers and the local community.
As Mayor, I am proud of this achievement which is recognised throughout Tasmania and beyond. For example, we are one of the few councils in Tasmania that produces a community newspaper and invites local groups to contribute to this monthly publication.
Our Council meetings are open to the public, our people are accessible, and we provide regular reports on the Council’s finances and the full range of Council operations and business.
So, for a Councillor to accuse Council of not being transparent is more than disappointing. It is, in fact, insulting to all other Councillors and to our extremely professional Council management and staff.
I strenuously and totally refute the accusation made by Councillor Keith Higgins and reject his assertion that Brighton Council needs to be more transparent.
At all times, Brighton Council acts and operates in strict accordance with the Local Government Act and we are seen to be one of the most professional and best operating councils in Tasmania.
The fact is that Cr Higgins is only new to Council, having been elected on a recount in October to fill the vacancy created following the death of Cr Geoff Taylor. Unfortunately, Cr Higgins is still learning how to behave like an elected representative and he seems to be having difficulty in understanding his role of Councillor.
His colleagues on Council and our officers are more than willing to assist him in his role and show him due respect as a Councillor. But by the same token, he must also show respect for his colleagues. He must understand that Council management and officers have roles and responsibilities and are also required to operate in accordance with Council policies and the Local Government Act.
They cannot ignore these responsibilities to satisfy the whims of an inexperienced and at times unpredictable Councillor.
The situation is extremely disappointing and undermines the efforts of other elected members of the Brighton Council, as well as the great work undertaken by our management and staff.
Cr Higgins seems to have difficulties in understanding his role and relating to other Councillors and staff. I hope that he is able to quickly resolve his problems and become a productive member of our Council.
I can only reiterate that Brighton Council is committed to transparency, fairness and equality. We encourage ratepayers to attend Council meetings to see how we operate and as Mayor, I meet regularly with community groups and individuals to discuss key issues. Other Councillors and our senior staff do the same
There is no doubt that our community overwhelmingly agrees that as a Council, we observe the highest standards of transparency, integrity and good governance. The fact that all sitting Brighton Councillors have been returned at the past three local government elections is testimony to this.
I regard these matters as extremely important and it would be unfortunate for our collective achievements to be undermined by baseless claims stemming from inexperience or some misunderstanding of a Councillor’s role.
Without doubt, Brighton is one of the best performing councils in Tasmania and our ratepayers can be assured that both the Council and our management team are continually working to ensure that we maintain our high standards of transparency, responsibility and service to the community.
Note: Cr Higgins has received one caution from the Local Government Code of Conduct Panel and he has two further complaints against him, waiting to be heard.