Shoalhaven City Council Forum on Council and CCB Relations March 23, 2013
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CCB Forum draft overview
The Forum was attended by 52 participants, representing the Community Consultative Bodies (CCBs), Councillors and Council staff.
Proceedings commenced with a welcome from the Mayor of the Shoalhaven, Councillor Joanna Gash. The key points raised in the Mayor’s introduction were that:
we should aim to build confidence and trust in the CCBs, with more autonomy for their operations.
The facilitator noted that the aim of the Forum was to discuss the relationship between CCBs and Councillors/ staff and, more specifically, that the objectives were to:
hear the views of the CCBs (by formal presentation and general discussion).
focus on the means of forging a more strategic, useful and productive relationship: a better synergy.
Three speakers set the scene with formal presentations:
Peter Hudson OAM (Environmental Coordinator, Read Head Villages Association Inc.).
Jessica Zealand (Secretary, Shoalhaven Heads CCB).
Graeme Gibson (Huskisson Woollamia Community Voice).
General discussion: The Speakers formed a Panel to respond to the general discussion; they were joined by Councillor Patricia White, representing the Council.
Before and after the refreshment break (and prompted by the facilitator's summary of the presentations), questions (Q) and comments (C) from the audience were noted:
C: Support for the criticism of problems with Council's communication eg. some emails are not acknowledged, some notices are out of date!
What is needed is an in-house Council 'Liaison Officer', to deal directly with the CCBs. Acknowledgement of correspondence and a contact officer should be provided. Timing should be addressed.
At this point the Mayor advised that such a position would be created as a member of the proposed Media and Communications Unit, part of the Council's proposed restructure. While this was greeted positively, it was suggested that there should have been consultation on the suggestion!
C: A number of comments/ questions were noted in relation to the Liaison Officer:
It was stressed that the role was ‘not to do the work of the CCBs’ Staff workload is an issue.
The Liaison Officer should report to the General Manager.
C: A key issue was the lack of representation at CCBs from 20-40 year olds and youngsters; seen not as a lack of interest but as reflecting the existing demands on the working age/young parent group. Perhaps other activities (eg. music events) and better timing would help. This should be addressed by the CCB Joint Meeting.
C: Not enough time is provided for CCBs to make submissions. Time cycles should be reconsidered eg. to coincide with locals newsletters (eg. Berry). It would also help if Council provided professional (staff) advice/ briefings on some proposals.
Q: Can the five minute time limit for comments at Council meetings be extended?
A: Needs investigation.
C: Some locals are guarded about email access (for sending invitations and minutes). Council’s website could be used as a portal for such information, be interactive and ongoing (eg. continuous 'threads'). Current web-access for CCBs is poor. This could be a task for the new Liaison Officer.
C: In general terms, evidence, in writing, should be provided to confirm Council's commitments.
C: Concern about the 'culture' of Council staff, eg. on implementing the 'groundbreaking' Community Engagement Policy. There should be 'cooperation all the way down the line'.
Q: What is the attitude of staff and Councillors? Mistrust?
A: The General Manager indicated that the CCBs were a 'great network back into the community' and vice-versa (the audience added). Existing and proposed initiatives are supported:
Combined CCB Executive Meetings. Assigning Councillors to certain CCBs. The Liaison Officer position (as 'genuine support'). CCB meeting times included in Councillors’ electronic diaries.
C: Congratulations to the General Manager.
A: 'Most important' and 'extremely valuable' for some Councillors, even though some CCB responses have not been successful.
C: CCBs can help Council, with their ‘community speak’: in addressing issues and adopting a collaborative approach.
C: Current two-way communication 'bogged down in bureaucracy'.
C: Consideration should be given to a 'day of consultation' for CCBs, prior to relevant Council Committee meetings.
C: Councillors as well as staff could meet on-site, when prompted. Staff noted that Councillors were currently engaged in a series of bus tours.
C: The Mayor could provide a 'Mayoral Monthly' column on CCBs.
C: A CCB Standing (or 'Sitting') Committee could be formed to assist in 'growing the relationship' eg. fleshing out the Liaison Officer role, investigating university resources. Some felt quite strongly that this was 'another layer of bureaucracy' and that there were already the joint meetings.
It was suggested that task-specific Working Groups was a better idea. The SLEP Group was a very good example: showcasing local talent. This Group’s efforts needs to be recognised by Council.
C: The onus was on CCBs to show how they have pursued membership, etc. This would help in maintaining Council respect.
C: The onus should be on Councillors to engage with CCBs
C: CCBs should utilise social media as a way to attract younger locals (and those with holiday homes). The suggested portal on Council’s website would help.The Callala Bay experience is working very well.
C: Training for CCBs on social media would assist.
C: The CCBs are 'issue-driven', while Council is 'policy-driven' (with various types of plans). What is needed is a 'road map' describing in simple terms how the various plans and policies (and work programs) fit together and are prioritised. As an education tool, it would greatly assist CCBs (and the Liaison Officer). Also, CCBs should note the significance of the Community Strategic Plan.
C: The Shoalhaven Heads Strategic Plan (and survey work) is an example of a community initiated strategy.

Where to from here?
The facilitator advised that the next step was for him to produce an Overview of Proceedings that would be circulated to all those present and to all CCBs. This should be an Agenda item at an up-coming CCB meeting, with coordinated feedback to the Liaison Officer.
The Mayor, in thanking participants, reiterated her three key points, that:
communication was a big issue for her and the Council councillors were encouraged to adopt a whole-of-Council role at CCBs
(not simply ward-based). CCBs should be the focus for other Community groups.
The General Manager suggested that an action plan, based on the outcomes of the forum, should be produced. He also stressed the need for responding in a 'doable-fashion' (time and resources), especially given Council's pressing program - restructure/ transformation.
Final comments from the audience reiterated that the CCBs: