Twist to council start

Wakefield Regional Council’s (WRC) new team of elected members will meet for the first time tonight – and CEO, Phil Barry, says challenges to be faced by councillors were exciting, but best achieved through team work.
Mr Barry encouraged new councillors to “pursue opportunities for the community and economic growth.”
“Council will need to do this against local willingness to accept change, including differing generational priorities as our residents seek improvements; for example footpath access ramps versus the skate park,” he said.
“No matter how long an elected member has been in the role, they still need to be learning and aware of local government activity within and beyond the council boundary.
“It is easy to identify a problem, the importance is to identify the affordable solutions.”
The four new councillors in the chamber tonight are Central Ward’s Owen Chapman, of Balaklava, Southern Ward’s Barry Smith, of Hamley Bridge and Western Ward’s Daryl Pain and John Kipling, both of Port Wakefield. In the recent local government elections, only Mr Chapman faced other candidates in his ward. The others were elected unopposed.
Mr Kipling already has sent a message to council, making his intentions clear on spending with claims the council staff Christmas party, to be held soon, is a “waste of money.”
He said attending the party was “unnecessary” and “a waste of time.”
Mr Kipling contacted council and the Plains Producer last week to advise his decision (see full report, Page 2).
There will be new representation in Northern ward, with former Eastern Ward councillor, John Wood, making up the trio which includes Darryl Ottens and Greg Stevens.
Eastern ward no longer exists and elected member representation has been reduced by one, leaving 10 councillors and returned mayor, James Maitland.
In Central ward, another former Eastern ward councillor, David Lamond joins long-standing councillor, Maurice Tiller. Owen’s Rodney Reid is the other councillor, representing Southern ward.
With an even number of elected members, it is likely mayor Maitland will need to use his casting vote more than in the past, possibly putting pressure on him when issues are contested.
Mr Barry said the  ongoing pressure of more State government regulation and red tape was another council “challenge”.
Maintaining close relationships with local associations, clubs and local and Federal governments also was important.
“Council’s strategic planning in partnership with communities and its many associations and clubs  is vital,” Mr Barry said.
“There needs to be a collaboration of priorities with co-operative and unified support.”
Continued development of a stronger partnership between local and federal governments towards new and emerging permanent funding program opportunities like community infrastructure is another challenge the new council will face.
“This leads to the solution of also having local government recognised in the Australian Constitution, as part of national government service connectivity getting down to grass roots level ensuring direct funding assistance to communities, historically which has been going to state governments,” Mr Barry said.       
Mr Barry believes councillors need to be prepared to understand their role and responsibility, and participate in training and networking opportunities available to them.
“The role of a councillor is a type of board member,” he said.
“In private enterprise, the board member has clear skill base and qualifications to suit the role.”
Mr Barry claimed local government was different, and this could be seen as a “weakness”, but said the strength of a council was being a democratically elected representative of the local community.
He said the extensive legislative framework a local council has to operate within also was challenging.
Re-elected WRC mayor, James Maitland, agreed with Mr Barry.
“The main challenge the newly elected council would have is to understand state government legislation and the framework council has to work with,” mayor Maitland said
“The legislation is very descriptive and very different from private enterprise,” he said.
Mayor Maitland admitted it could be a “frustrating” and slow process to get the new council “up to speed”, but said “you never know what the future holds”.
“Who knows what the next challenge is around the corner,” he said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”