Power play


ELECTED councillors are planning to seize power back from bureaucrats, insisting they be consulted before decisions are made on important matters.
Southern Downs councillors will review the 1500 powers, or delegations, that have been granted to the council CEO and officers. These allow council staff to take action without reference to a council meeting.
Recent changes to State Government legislation passing powers from council to the CEO require council to amend its register of delegations, and councillors will use the opportunity to review all 1500 delegations.
“In some respects by giving delegated authority to the CEO and the staff does create efficiencies in the organisation, but it also in some respects erodes democracy,” deputy mayor Ross Bartley said.
Cr Bartley said members of the public often asked about decision-making processes only to be told council staff operated on delegated authority.
“A lot of them (the public) don’t comprehend that,” Cr Bartley said.
“We need to go through some of those and take out parts that we would like to make decisions on as local government representatives.”
While many of the delegations are required by law, some councillors consider that CEO Andrew Roach has too much power to act without needing council consent.
For instance, the first councillors knew about a recent move to sell council-owned land was reading advertisements in local media.
Mayor Peter Blundell said that because of the complexity of delegations the council’s solicitors need to be involved.
CEO Andrew Roach said he was happy to organise a workshop for the council with King and Co solicitors.
“Councillors can go through every delegation and take back whatever powers they like, anytime,” Mr Roach said.
He said if councillors decided to defer the issue he would cease to act on delegated powers “until you guys get yourselves organised”.
“That means council business stops. I’ve got no problem with that,” Mr Roach said.
“I’m happy to give all the delegations back.”
Mayor Peter Blundell urged caution, saying that council would continue to operate normally and that many of the delegations were required by law.
Cr Cameron Gow said the process would require only minor amendments to delegations.
“We’re not dramatically changing what we’re already doing,” he said of the review process. “It’s not something brand new.”