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Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt raises concerns over ‘undemocratic’ council committees

Sir Tim Shadbolt has raised concerns about two committees at the Invercargill City Council.

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Sir Tim Shadbolt has raised concerns about two committees at the Invercargill City Council.

Sir Tim Shadbolt believes a “chairs committee” at the Invercargill City Council carries too much power and suggests it is creating an “A team and B team” at the council.

Shadbolt considers the current setup undemocratic and has concerns about the role of the chairs committee given it meets behind closed doors, and he says is unanswerable to its deliberations.

Although his colleagues say all decisions still rests with full council.

The chairs group is made up of Shadbolt, deputy mayor Nobby Clark, committee chairs Darren Ludlow and Ian Pottinger, committee deputy chairs Alex Crackett and Rebecca Amundsen, as well as external appointees Lindsay Mckenzie and Jeff Grant who chair the meetings.

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They meet weekly with the purpose to “manage the political processes to ensure an effective functioning of council’s governance structure”.

The terms of reference for the group says it has no formal decision-making power other than any delegation from council or other committees.

Although that has not stopped Shadbolt from raising concerns about the committee’s role at council.

“In reality five councillors, and also myself, end up making decisions for all of council. It sometimes comes back to council but very rarely.

“There is an entrenched A team and B team. This is completely anti-democratic. It is also not a formal committee and is behind closed doors so is unanswerable in its deliberations,” Shadbolt said in an email statement.

The external appointees have chaired the group, but it has been recommended that Crackett and Amundsen take over as co-chairs as McKenzie and Grant’s roles are phased out.

At an extraordinary risk and assurance committee meeting on Monday morning, the committee discussed the next steps of the council’s “Working on Working Together” project and Shadbolt was the sole person to vote against the recommended next steps because of various concerns.

At the meeting, Ludlow tried to ease some of Shadbolt’s concerns.

“I think its worth pointing out that neither of those committees make decisions. The council chairs group can only make a decision if they have been delegated specifically, which has only happened once. PGG has to bring recommendations back to council your Worship, so the final say always rests with council.”

Jane Parfitt, an advisor to chief executive Clare Hadley, prepared the report for Monday’s meeting. She agreed that the chairs group was not part of the formal structure of council.

She pointed out the formation of the group was part of the Working on Working Together project which stemmed from concerns raised by the Department of Internal affairs in August last year in regard to significant conflict at the council.

On top of the chairs group there is a Project Governance Group [PGG] in place which has also been chaired by the external appointees, but it’s recommended deputy mayor Nobby Clark take over.

The group includes Hadley, a representative of the DIA, risk and assurance chair Bruce Robertson, McKenzie and Grant, and councillors Lesley Soper, Nigel Skelt, and Graham Lewis.

Shadbolt was disappointed the report recommended that Clark chair the governance group in the future.

“In practice deputies are alternates for the Mayor with the Mayor’s consent.”

At the meeting, Shadbolt asked where he sat given the report did not include him in the governance group.

Parfitt responded saying she expected Shadbolt should be part of the group and should continue to attended meetings as he has previously done.

Shadbolt was also unhappy with the makeup of the Project Governance Group given the amount of non-elected members it has.

It was against the spirit of democracy, Shadbolt said.

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