EACH week this column could be about local politics or take you behind the scenes on big decisions affecting our community. Inside Ipswich won’t be limited to politics. There’ll be the odd bit of gossip to spice things up.
Strap yourself in for another wild ride on the election roller-coaster with both local and state government elections this year.
Many people think councillors have a great deal of power. Reality can sometimes be different.
This was illustrated in the chamber on October 21 last year when mayor Teresa Harding referred to how residents lodge a service request with council. If a councillor is contacted by a resident, they may be referred to the call centre, council email, or council officer bypassing the councillor altogether.
All this is in stark contrast to what was encouraged by previous terms of councillors when 10 divisional offices were established at great cost, however they didn’t provide anywhere near the full range of council services.
The mayor then went on to refer to the community guide for local government.
“It is the councillor’s role to focus on strategic decision-making for the whole council area rather than manage day-to-day service requests which are the responsibility of the council CEO and other council officers,” Cr Harding said.
“In particular it states it is illegal for a councillor to contact a council employee to direct them to complete your work request.”
What the mayor didn’t say was that under the Local Government Act a mayor can give a legal directive to the CEO. The CEO can then give a directive to a department head and so it goes down the line.
Where councillors do have real power is in the chamber. Their role is to provide strategic direction and policy to guide the council’s priorities. Together they may resolve to implement changes, policies, local laws, vote on contentious development applications, appoint or dismiss a CEO along with a host of other powers under the Act.
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- Allan Roebuck is the host of the Ipswich Today podcast. He worked in broadcast media for 30 years both on-air and behind the scenes, some of that time included presenting current affairs radio programs in Townsville, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. He moved to Ipswich 25years ago to work in local radio then moved to Ipswich City Council as Media Manager then created his podcast in 2020, called Ipswich Today, which you can access by scanning the QR code.