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Council leaders defend policy committee decision

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Two Bunbury leaders have defended a Bunbury City Council decision to include an outside representative on its Policy Review and Development Committee.

At least two councillors have hit out at the move, which will see a Bunbury Geographe Chamber of Commerce and Industry member have input on the committee.

But chamber president David Kerr has hit back, saying it is “pure political theatre” to suggest the move will compromise council decisions.

While Mayor Gary Brennan said the council needed to accept and respect the decision, believing it to be a “perfectly logical” one.

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The committee is responsible for reviewing and developing the council’s policies.

“Elected members are required to respect the decision of council,” Mr Brennan said.

“Sometimes I have decisions that I don’t support, it doesn’t matter, whatever the decision is, that’s the decision of council and that’s the decision that matters.

“In my experience, elected members generally accept that and move on.”

Cr Brendan Kelly has been the most vocal critic of the decision saying the move would not “pass the pub test” and it was the job of elected members to make policy decisions.

“As a ratepayer, personally I feel the decision to include BGCCI onto our policy committee is a seismic shift to elitist policy making,” Cr Kelly told the Bunbury Herald.

But Mr Brennan said having a chamber representative on the committee would improve the decision-making process and anything the committee advised would need to be endorsed by the council anyway.

“It’s really important for some elected members not to be too precious about the fact that’s the way we work and the community does applaud that approach,” Mr Brennan said.

“There are several examples of where having a chamber representative on the policy committee they can be involved right from the beginning when those policies are being developed, through the consideration of them through the committee and then being involved in the recommendation to council.

“So by the time it gets to council, a very robust amount of consideration and research has been applied to the particular matters.”

He said the move was the same rationale for several of the council’s committees and advisory groups.

“We have community members on our heritage committee, our access committee, our international relations committee, our audit committee.

“We have external parties on each of those committees, they bring their expertise, knowledge, experience and qualifications to assist our decision making process.”

He said if there was a “reasonable” case for other organisations or associations to be involved in the committee, they could be considered.

“Put it to us, let’s examine each one individually,” he said.

In a letter to the South Western Times, Cr Michelle Steck also expressed her concerns saying the decision was “watering down” the role of the council.

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