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City council fails to turn up to own meeting

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The Adelaide City Council was forced to cancel this week’s meeting because too few councillors said they would turn up.

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It is the first time in more than two decades that a regular meeting has had to be cancelled because too few members said they would be able to attend, according to the council’s longest-serving member, Anne Moran.

At least seven members have to attend for a meeting to go ahead. Only six were available.

Four councillors submitted “apologies” and a further two councillors – Lord Mayor Martin Haese and North Ward councillor Sue Clearihan – were in Canberra for a national Local Government Association event.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin told InDaily: “Local government is diminished in the eyes of our constituents every time something like this happens.

“Elected members also have career, family and other important obligations, but we enter into a contract with the people who vote us into office to turn up on a regular basis.

“It’s a four-year agreement.”

He said it was no wonder few people turned up to vote at local government elections every four years.

“It’s beyond belief that a capital city council failed to meet because it couldn’t muster a quorum,” he said.

“Every critic of local government in Australia will be saying, ‘Here’s the proof they couldn’t even organise a bun fight in a bakery’.

“And local government wonders why so few people turn out to vote on election day.”

A council spokesperson agreed the cancellation was “unusual” but could not confirm it was the first time in decades a regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting had been cancelled for lack of quorum. He said the council’s archives did not record the reason meetings were cancelled with enough accuracy to be certain.

The spokesperson declined to comment on why so many councillors were scheduled to be absent.

“It’s never in my [memory] happened on a Tuesday in 22 years,” Moran told InDaily after it was announced the meeting would be cancelled yesterday.

“The council meeting and committee meetings are the most important thing you do [as a councillor].

“It’s not a good look for council.

“Council is not, I think, performing up to standard.”

She stressed she did not blame any particular councillor who was away last night, but remarked: “I’m a great opponent of swanning off and pretending you are a state politician or a federal politician when you are only a councillor.”

She suggested part of the problem might be a newly instituted committee-meeting format, which operates like a relatively free-flowing workshop.

Moran said the less-structured meetings were “boring” and often focused too heavily on unimportant issues.

Last night’s meeting was to discuss the vexed issue of parking permits in North Adelaide, as well as traffic management for the area.

Councillor Martin said ratepayers were right to be annoyed.

“More than 10,000 North Adelaide ratepayers, residents and businesses were depending on that meeting to grapple with parking issues they desperately want us to solve.

“I wouldn’t blame them if they felt disappointed or annoyed – they were let down.”

However, he said: “I accept it’s not possible to attend every meeting.”

InDaily understands a special meeting is being organised to discuss the issue next Monday instead.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad last week proposed that the requirement for quorum be reduced from six members to four – but the motion failed.

Lord Mayor Haese was contacted for comment.

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