AN attempt to hold monthly council meetings during the same week as community access meetings has been scuttled after the majority of councillors argued it would inconvenience weekly newspapers which compete with the Tweed Daily News.
At Tuesday’s Tweed Shire Council meeting Cr Dot Holdom sought changes which would have seen the meetings pushed back to the third Thursday of each month, with community access meetings held on the Tuesday.
Cr Holdom said that would avoid “discrimination” against working people.
Employees, the self-employed and many others she said would not be able to get to community access meetings under an earlier plan to hold them from 2pm before the council meetings on Tuesday.
But the move was derailed when several councillors said it would disadvantage weekly newspapers which are published on Thursdays.
They said those papers would not be able to print stories on council decisions until a week later.
The Tweed Daily News in contrast is published six days a week and an updated website ‘tweednews.com.au’ offers even faster coverage of major local news.
Cr Barry Longland instead successfully moved for the council meetings to continue to be held on the third Tuesday of each month and the community access meetings the previous Thursday when the public should be able to have access to the agenda for the following Tuesday council meeting.
“I would just like to remind people in this chamber we make provision for the press and we welcome them into our chamber,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that Cr Holdom’s suggestion tends to exclude three of the four newspapers because of their production timetables.
“If we cut out three of the publications that report council affairs and we push them back a week that hardly enhances transparency.
“Deciding to do this (meet on Thursdays) has some serious negative effects on our willingness to have up-to-date reporting.”
Cr Milne backed Cr Longland’s move to instead have community access meetings on the previous Thursday.
“We do need to have valuable media reportage,” Cr Milne said.
“We don’t want to be the shire with stale old news.”
But Cr Phil Youngblutt backed Cr Holdom’s proposal saying it did consider “the council staff, the councillors and the public”.
Cr Longland’s proposal was carried on a four-to-three vote with councillors Dot Holdom, Phil Youngblutt and Warren Polglase against.
Cr Longland’s concern for the ability of newspapers to report council affairs however did not extend several hours later into allowing the media to report details of individual councillors’ currently secret expenses claims.
As reported yesterday, a move to once again make those details public was voted down in a secret closed session.
Details on who voted for and against making that information public is as follows:
For: Katie Milne, Joan van Lieshout and Kevin Skinner. Against: Warren Polglase, Barry Longland, Dot Holdom and Phil Youngblutt.