Positive start to Newcastle City Council

NEWCASTLE City Council began a new term last night with a jump to the right, a swing to the left and a ‘‘very positive’’ compromise between Liberal and Labor councillors to freeze the expansion of parking meters.

Liberal Brad Luke was elected deputy lord mayor, backed by independents Andrea Rufo, Allan Robinson and lord mayor Jeff McCloy.

Cr Robinson and Cr Rufo later voted for a Labor-backed rescission motion that will halt the imminent gifting of council-owned childcare centres to community operators.

All eyes were on the new council and Cr McCloy, who was presented with the mayoral chains before chairing his first meeting.

Councillors said a unanimous vote to curtail the planned roll-out of parking meters, after Labor and Liberal councillors compromised on the wording of separate motions, was a signal that the new council was willing to work together.

Cr Rufo said it was ‘‘fantastic’’ to see councillors collaborate for the benefit of the city.

The vote for deputy lord mayor was split along political lines.

Cr Luke defeated Green Michael Osborne by seven votes to six.

Labor and Greens councillors backed a push to rotate the position, but that was also defeated seven to six.

Cr Tim Crakanthorp (Labor) said the council had missed an opportunity ‘‘to show the public we are putting a fresh face on clean and transparent democracy’’.

Cr McCloy said he believed rotating the deputy’s position would be ‘‘difficult to manage’’ and then made a commitment to share invitations to events among councillors.

Cr Luke argued with suggestions that electing a deputy mayor for a one-year term was undemocratic.

‘‘How having an election is not democractic is a mystery to me,’’ Cr Luke said.

The council will take more time to consider the implications of gifting childcare centres to community operators, after rescinding a decision of the previous council.

A working party will be formed within three months, and will consider further opportunities to give the operators long-term leases.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes (Labor) said the decision had sent ‘‘a very good signal to the community’’ that the council supports community-based childcare.

Cr Rufo encouraged councillors to work with community childcare centres to find a solution that suited all parties.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy advised the meeting he was withdrawing a controversial motion to appoint his campaign manager, former Port Stephens councillor Josh Hodges, as a special advisor.

The Newcastle Herald understands the motion was withdrawn on legal advice.

Halt to parking meter roll-out 

NEWCASTLE councillors voted unanimously to halt the roll-out of city parking meters last night.

Long-term plans to put parking meters into areas like Darby Street, Cooks Hill and The Junction are now notionally off the table.

Liberal Lisa Tierney said the move was a ‘‘real collaboration’’ between Labor and Liberal councillors that would stop the roll-out of 189 meters.

The vote also extends free weekend parking to the western part of the CBD.

Council staff will be asked to consider the impact of two-hour free parking across the city, ways to significantly increase on-street parking spaces, ways to create additional parking in the Hunter Street Mall, and more areas where free 15 minute and 30 minute parking can be introduced by the end of January.

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