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A necessary but tricky beast

Let’s not beat around the bush.

There will be decisions made around the council table as we debate the results of the consultation process on our annual plan, which will not suit everybody.

That much is guaranteed because the opinions offered by the submitters themselves are often significantly different in tone from one to another.

If past history is anything to go by, you can safely wager too that a good many of those whose views are not shared by the majority of councillors in the decision-making process will claim that they had not been listened to and that the consultation was little more than an exercise in futility.

“The Council had already made up its mind,” they will argue.

Consultation is a necessary but tricky beast. Yes, it has a hugely important part to play in the workings of any council because it allows the community to have their say on how the money they provide through rates is spent and where they see savings could be made. That alone makes it worthwhile.

However, there is another side to the coin as well. No matter how transparent the Council tries to be, there will always be times where people, for a variety of reasons, get the wrong end of the stick and base their judgements on information which is, to put it kindly, less than accurate. That, as they say, is a hazard of the business, but it doesn’t make life any easier [or quieter] for councillors, that’s for sure.

The other question mark over consultation for councillors revolves around the number of submissions received.

If there are only a small number, does that mean that those who haven’t bothered to make the effort to forward a submission are happy with what the council is proposing? Or are they simply not interested in being part of the process for whatever reason?

At the numerous meetings of local groups and organisations I have addressed over the past month or so, I have generally spent considerable time discussing the annual plan and have been pleasantly surprised to find that the general view has been “we understand what you are trying to achieve, just get on with it”.

The problem is though, that the vast majority of people who feel that way don’t see the need to submit, and therefore, their opinions are not down on paper for councillors to see and digest.

Whatever the outcome of this latest round of consultation, there will undoubtedly be a sense of relief among councillors when it is put to bed.

For then they can start making the big decisions around projects like the civic centre/town hall, library and CBD upgrade. Will they be progressed, delayed or aborted?

Interesting times ahead!

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