Elected representatives accountable for things they have no control over: Whitton

AN Orange councillor has backed moving to the Brisbane system of local government, saying councillors closer to home face the same accountability to the public for less control.

Councillor Jeff Whitton said while councillors could set money aside and make policy directions, limits on their operational involvement in Orange City Council meant the working relationship with staff was not as close and councillors were only involved at the approval stage.

“The system is broken because the elected community representatives don’t really have any say over the running of the city,” he said.

“We can say we want this done, but when it’s done and how it’s done, we have no say.

“If all the councillors sitting now were voted out based on prior performance and new councillors were voted in, that performance won’t change.”

He said when the work for William Street was announced, councillors were told it would be conducted at night – the Central Western Daily also reported most work would be conducted at night, with crews progressively removing roadbase and replacing it with a better surface before preparing it to be driven on during the day.

“But it was done during the day and it affected businesses,” Cr Whitton said.

He said the coming 2017-18 budget was another concern.

“There seems to be a lot of emphasis in Orange placed on large capital projects – that’s good, that’s healthy, but it needs to be balanced with maintenance,” he said.

“We seem to be struggling in our ability to provide maintenance works to the city, footpaths and roads primarily, even though the council made a large about of money available to get the roads done.”

By comparison, Brisbane City Council employs full-time councillors and mayors who can give operational directions.

“A lot of people say if the mayor and councillors run everything, it promotes corruption but it’s not true – people can be corrupt in any system,” he said.

Cr Whitton emphasised staff were only acting within the bounds of the system, but the code of conduct presented another barrier.

“We should be in a position where councillors can request something from staff without them taking it as a personal affront, because they are asking on behalf of the community,” he said.

The council declined to comment.

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