Lord Mayor, ICEO diaries to be published online

29 Aug 2017

A draft strategy on public exhibition from this week would require Newcastle's Lord Mayor and interim CEO to publish their diaries online so they could be inspected by the public.

The draft Open and Transparent Governance Strategy outlines actions for Newcastle City Council to ensure accountability and confidence in decision making.

One of the key measures is the requirement for "open diaries" for the Lord Mayor, ICEO and other members of Council's Executive Management Team.

If the draft strategy is adopted, Council will publish details from these diaries including the date and purpose of meetings and the organisations or individuals who attend; provided their consent is given.

Interim CEO Jeremy Bath welcomed the draft strategy, saying it would bring Council into line with the NSW Government, which requires its Ministers to publish their diaries online quarterly.

"The draft Open and Transparent Governance Strategy provides visibility of who senior management are meeting with which undoubtedly better ensures the community has confidence in Council decisions," he said.

Mr Bath said the entire diaries of the ICEO and Lord Mayor were already shared with Council's Legal and Governance Manager.

"Open and collaborative leadership is built on the foundation of good governance.

"This strategy will guide Councillors and staff, helping further develop a genuine sense of trust in the decisions we make on their behalf."

Councillors voted unanimously at a 22 August Council meeting to place the draft strategy on public exhibition. Council's four guiding principles helped shape the draft strategy:

Equity - fairness in Council's decision-making, prioritising and allocation of resources
Participation - maximising opportunities for the community to participate in decisions affecting their lives
Transparency - providing access to information the community needs to understand Council's planning and decision-making processes
Active citizenship - ensuring people can exercise their rights and responsibilities in a balanced way within our democratic society

"At the end of the day, the decision to publish my diary online is about demonstrating to the community that I am, as the leader of Newcastle City Council, accountable for my decisions regarding who I choose to meet with," Mr Bath said.

"Going forward, when someone requests to meet with me, I'll make clear that my expectation is that they support my desire for openness and transparency."

"There will be occasions where it will be inappropriate to communicate publicly the identity of who I meet with. But these times will be few and far between. Having reviewed my diary since commencing with Council in May, there are no meetings with members of the public which I wouldn’t support being shared with the community.

"And should in future I believe a meeting should remain confidential, I will firstly discuss this with our Legal and Governance Manager. This positon already has full visibility of my diary, as well as that of the Lord Mayor's."

The draft strategy will be on public exhibition until 23 October 2017 and is accompanied by a draft Charter for Community Consultation and Open Governance.

People can view and comment on the strategy and charter on Council's website: http://www.newcastleyoursay.com.au/open-and-transparent