THE failure to include a ward 3 councillor on an inspection tour has reignited claims the ruling Team Gash bloc on Shoalhaven City Council is operating as a secret society.
Cr Mark Kitchener said he was snubbed on a recent tour of projects in Ulladulla, Burrill Lake, Mollymook, Milton and Lake Conjola – projects he said had been supported by all councillors.
“Had other councillors known about or been invited to the inspection tour they would have attended,” Cr Kitchener said.
“Then, to add injury to insult, the same ward 3 councillors at the recent Policy and Resources meeting moved to have funds withdrawn from the optional extras list of the Ulladulla Civic Centre and transferred to a project in ward 2.”
Cr Kitchener said Team Gash continued to ignore councillors who were not elected on the Gash ticket.
“The Gash Team continues to work as a secret society and is non-inclusive of other councillors. It is evident Team Gash has a permanent majority of eight, while the other five councillors, who aren’t provided with privileged information, are left to their own devices,” he said.
“To be ignored by the ruling group in council at events within our own community is undemocratic and defeats the purpose for which we are there. Clearly, a vibrant local democracy is a desired outcome in its own right and essential for effective local government.
“This exclusion of councillors practised by Team Gash promotes a division in the council and is a form of control and domination.
“Manipulation takes many subtle forms with exclusion being at the top of the list. If local government wants to be taken seriously and build credible and genuine relationships with its communities then the issues of poor governance and dominating groups within the sector need to be addressed as a priority.”
Cr Patricia White, who organised the tour in inspection with Cr Alan Baptist, denied any snub was intended, saying Cr Kitchener’s claims were “totally unfounded”.
“We routinely invite other councillors to come with us,” she said.
“We didn’t invite Cr Kitchener on this last tour because it was our understanding he was on leave until January 20.”
Cr White undertook to invite all councillors to any future inspection tours.
Meanwhile, Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said she would soon resume village visits for times when state and federal parliaments were sitting to avoid overlapping with local MPs’ visits.