This happened at the extraordinary council meeting yesterday and involved the recommendation in the agenda to appoint external consultants MartinJenkins to undertake the independent organisational review of the Council, despite these caveats in the agenda:
31. There is a constitutional convention in central government, that when the government is in caretaker mode (i.e. pre-election), it does not make any significant decisions. The rationale for this is that it is inappropriate for an outgoing government to attempt to bind a future government.
32. In a local government context, there are no such constitutional conventions. However, in practice a similar approach is generally adopted in local government. That is, once nominations are open, a Council will generally not make any significant decisions. The exception to this is where there is some legislative requirement for a Council to make a decision – for example adoption of an annual plan or a bylaw that would otherwise lapse.
33. Respectful of the fact that the current Council has requested an independent organisational review, it is important for the current Council to be fully aware that any decisions Council makes at its next meeting on 10 October 2019 regarding the independent organisational review, will bind the new Council in the upcoming triennium.
It was a pleasant surprise when Michael Scott, based on the above, backed by Fiona Vining, opposed the motion to go ahead with this appointment. Jackie Elliott abstained; the rest voted it for it. There is a question mark, raised by Jackie Elliott, about how ‘independent’ MartinJenkins are since they have done work for the council before.
The vote was thus 7 in favour, 2 against and 1 abstention.
The review is now scheduled to begin next Monday, 14 October and is expected to be completed within 3 months. The new council can decide to amend the terms of reference or terminate the contract without penalty (except it will need to pay for work done to that stage). But given that it will be about a month before the new council can meet as the new councilors don’t take office until 31 October, that seems fairly unlikely.
The impact of the cost of the review on the council budget for other programs was raised, although that seems a red herring given the huge amount of money the council spends on consultants generally ($24 million in the last financial year) and the readiness to spend millions on lots of beachfront land for no apparent reason. There is also the question of the proceeds of the secret sale of parcels of land that were bought for the dam some years ago.