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Electing to do their best

Opinion

Electing to do their best

Jane Stephens reminds new councillors that ratepayers hold them accountable, and expect responsible, respectful discharge of their duties.

Now that the voting is over and the counting in done, the rubber has hit the road for those who wanted to be on our councils.

Each of those elected really wanted the job, and most worked like Trojans to impress us enough to put that magic number 1 next to their names. So, let’s now hold them to their words.

Imagine a panel of councillors who are each conscious of their role, cognisant of their responsibilities and respectful of those who put them there. This should not be a utopian idea: we should settle for nothing less.

It is not fantasyland to expect better than backbiting and sniping, dismissiveness and conflicts of interest on the down-low. In fact, the new councillors all sign a pledge that they will do none of these. The state government oversees our councils’ responsibilities and controls and recently passed a new code of conduct for councillors.

As we know, local government is far from trivial. Councils make decisions that have a direct effect on people. So, it is vital that councillors take it seriously. Their work is for our collective benefit, after all.

Among the things the councillors and mayors must sign their names to are: to have transparent processes and make decisions in the public interest; to oversee sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure; and to conduct transparent and meaningful community engagement.

The councillors and mayors also agreed to act in a polite, respectful, just and non-discriminatory way towards each other, council staff and the public. Here’s hoping in the rough and tumble of debate and disagreement, they remember that one. It is not too much to expect that those who stood for election and achieved enough support to now be paid wages, that we provide through our rates, will put their hearts, souls and best behaviour into the job.

Part of their pledge was to engender and strengthen trust in the integrity of local government. Our system depends on us believing such authorities act for the greater good. If enough of us lose faith, anarchy is sure to ensue.

Let’s just hope that overall we have chosen councillors wisely.

 

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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