Councillors creep with the times
Should Nelson city councillors be given iPads to conduct council business?
The generation gap was never more evident around the Nelson City Council chamber than when it came time to talk about moving into a modern realm of conducting council business.
Junior councillor Kate Fulton's earlier wish for an iPad to replace unwieldy agendas and documents is part way to coming true, after agreement was reached at yesterday's governance committee meeting that the council spends more than $13,000 on iPads for council business.
Senior councillor Eric Davy preferred to continue to receive the weekly satchels of weighty tomes, which now fill whole rooms of some councillors' houses.
"We have to move with the times," Ms Fulton insisted.
Councillors spent almost 1 and a half hours yesterday talking about the merits or not of iPads, which sparked a secondary conversation on how much councillors spend of their own time and money on communications.
It was triggered by a decision to advise the Remuneration Authority that the council does not intend to reduce the $300 communications allowance paid to those councillors who received an iPad, reversing an earlier part of the recommendation to cut the allowance.
"I support this [getting iPads] but not cutting the $300. It's ludicrous, illogical and ridiculous," a miffed councillor Gail Collingwood said.
She also pointed out that the iPads would be council property and not that of the councillors, and suggested holding off until next year's election when a new council would be ushered in.
"The next council might require something different. I don't know who's going to remain here, except I know it won't be me. This is the end of my term on council," Mrs Collingwood said.
Her decision not to stand in the 2013 council election would end six terms as a city councillor.
Councillor Rachel Reese said the $300 communications allowance received "did not come close" to what she spent on communications costs.
"That $300 is just a contribution."
Ms Reese supported the move into using iPads, which she considered a more effective and efficient way to handle council business. Despite there being no budget to buy them, she believed budgets could be shuffled to make them cost-neutral.
However, acting chief executive Richard Johnson cautioned against testing rules around how public money could be spent.
"We are dealing with public money here. The Government set up the Remuneration Authority to disperse public money. The authority will make the determination if you choose to make this change from paper to electronics," Mr Johnson said.
He said he was trying to keep the council safe by ensuring it dealt properly with the organisation set up to deal with councillor payments and allowances.
The authority is responsible for annually considering and determining the remuneration and allowances of members of local authorities and community boards.
"At the end of the day you need to request this through the remuneration authority," Mr Johnson said.
Mayor Aldo Miccio considered it would be acceptable if presented in a manner that promoted "better communication with the constituency", and not about how communication and interaction was handled among councillors.
Council support services executive manager Hugh Kettlewell said a proposal needed to be taken to the authority.
Ms Reese then pointed out it had been an "extremely long conversation" over $300 but it was a "last straw" because it had taken so long to get the report to the table.
Mrs Collingwood suggested the council coat of arms on the iPads might help, while Ms Fulton felt the debate was becoming "pedantic".
"The reason why they should be purchased is so the council can move with the times. It's something that has to happen - it's about replacing a dated system."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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