Public may see council decision-making

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2013
Andrew Judd
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd

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New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd has committed to opening the doors to the public on the council decision-making process.

At a Grey Power meeting yesterday he said he wanted to see the public attend council workshops so they could see how and why councillors made the decisions they did.

Workshops are where council officers and councillors informally discuss issues and upcoming agenda items.

In the past the workshops, which arguably no-one but councillors would want to attend anyway, have been closed to the public. The logic being that opening them to scrutiny would discourage free-flowing debate and the "stupid" questions councillors might need to ask to get an understanding of an issue.

Often the workshops are where ideas are discussed but no decisions are officially allowed to be made and in the past Mr Judd has led calls to open the doors for transparency.

"Leading into our next annual plan I want to push for our initial workshops to be open," Mr Judd said.

"The fear is people will run with something that is brought up. There is the tension between the open and out of the box thinking and people that hear something and think it is gospel. I want to open it but it's about trying to find a way that it works."

Councillor John McLeod, who attended the meeting, said he had no problem with letting the public in but councillor Keith Allum refused to comment.

Regardless of what his councillors think, it will be up to Mr Judd, as the chairman, to decide who can attend workshops and who can not.

However, with a bevy of councillors pushing to keep rates down and a shrinking income from the investment fund, opening the doors on workshops may prove an essential part of communicating to ratepayers the relationship between the rates and the levels of service they receive.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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