It’s broken but thankfully it’s not broke. Despite cuts to community services, the Byron Council budget forecast is for much of the same. Unfortunately the stagnation continues. While our neighbouring shires push for development to ‘stimulate’
a stalling global economy, this council is left – in the most part – bickering and incapable of making even the slightest improvements to infrastructure.
Perhaps this perceived incompetence actually works in our favour. Dealing with any Council DA is a well-known nightmare. Such bottle-necks result in a low level of development and therefore we remain unique in a world trying its hardest to aspire to economic growth at any cost to the environment.
Policy and operation – or councillors and staff – have been at each other for some time now. Through the recent code of conduct actions instigated by the general manager (operation) against the mayor (policy), it is clear that we have reached a dysfunctional state. Not that the mayor doesn’t give it back – she consistently berates staff in council meetings for a lack of transparency, reports and results.
Part of the problem is the ideological divide between councillors who whole-heartedly support staff and those who claim they are being fed bullshit. The supporters of staff include Cr Woods, the oft-mute Cr Heeson and the long-serving Cr Tucker.
‘Let them get on with their job’ is often heard in the chambers, particularly from Cr Tucker, and when you consider the disparity in pay between staff and councillors, it isn’t a surprising attitude. But that’s not what democracy is about. Why be a councillor if staff run the place entirely? It’s no secret that Crs Tabart and Barham have the biggest axes to grind, while Crs Staples and Richardson are usually less combative.
Crs Morrisey and Cameron tend to vote slightly in favour of letting staff do their job without too much question or interference.
On Monday night, a week ago, councillor hopefuls for the upcoming election were invited to an info session at the chambers. Despite a healthy turn-out of 27 or so (though the session covered other shires), there was only one face recognisable that regularly turns up for Council meetings – Jim Beatson’s. Another face in the crowd was the Byron Community Centre’s Paul Spooner.
Much of this job is not glamorous. The legal and policy language is a study in itself and dealing with the crazy locals – both wealthy and not so – has never been an easy task.