Better an open council

LAST Tuesday there was no scheduled Newcastle council meeting and the night was used for a closed workshop. What justified it being closed to the community and media? It looked to me that only two of the six agenda items were possibly confidential and they could have been accommodated within a public briefing anyway.

Why should issues like (ironically) the community survey, a drainage regime at Marylands Creek and coastal zone management options be confidential? What input do councillors have in determining what should be closed?

Confidential briefings and workshops began in the 1999-2004 term and were minimised during the term after that. But the majority of the present elected council and the management seem to have jointly institutionalised this process. It creates a perception of unofficial, behind-closed-doors decisions.

As a former councillor, I recall that during 2008, many of the present councillors, as candidates, sat in the gallery through many briefings and also heard councillors’ questions and staff or consultants’ responses. After they were elected this changed. Why?

Keith Parsons, Newcastle

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