Lockout decreed for half budget sessions

By YVONNE McLEAN

THE Gold Coast City Council's blackout on its budget deliberations is on again, with the general public and the media to be locked out from half the budget sessions.

Finance committee chairman Cr Rod Molhoek said closed sessions would give councillors more freedom to argue the rates' structure and their wish lists.

Cr Daphne McDonald said there had been occasions in the past when tearful ratepayers had confronted her after reading a media report on preliminary budget talks indicating huge rate hikes based on spiralling land valuations.

"Nothing was further from the fact. It concerns me that very preliminary argument on the budget, discussions only, could be interpreted by the public and some media, as decisions," Cr McDonald said.

However, sitting at her first co-ordination meeting soon after her swearing-in as Division 14 councillor, Chris Robbins said she would not support any move to close the doors on council meetings.

"I have very firm convictions on open door and accountable government and in my opinion it is up to councillors to ensure the correct information gets out to the public," Cr Robbins said.

In response, deputy mayor Cr David Power said the Gold Coast City Council was the most open and accountable council in Queensland, if not in Australia.

"The public have a right to know what we are doing, they do not have a right to read misinformation or hear about it over the back fence."

Cr Dawn Crichlow said she had checked on other councils' budget sessions and most of them did not occur behind closed doors.

"We are going backwards again," she said.

In the final vote, a majority council adopted an officer recommendation that budget sessions should be open on April 14, closed on April 27 and throughout May, and open on June 1 and 8, with the budget brought down on June 17.



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