Manly Council has acted to shut down debate on its controversial Manly 2015 plan, by gagging independent councillor Candy Bingham.
The move came just days before the March Council meeting, and was repeated again for the April meeting, with the rejection of a motion for the agenda which simply covered a number of procedural matters in relation to the proposed carpark under Manly Oval.
The council firstly claimed that Cr Bingham's role as president of the Good For Manly residents' group, which has opposed several aspects of the Manly 2015 plan, constitutes a conflict of interest in relation to the plan. As a result she was banned from participating in, or even listening to, any debate on Manly 2015 and notified that she must leave the council chamber whenever the Plan is discussed.
Clr Bingham thought she had resolved the matter by resigning as President of Good For Manly, however the same notice of motion was rejected again. Why? "it is considered you have a pecuniary and non pecuniary interest in the subject matter".....
"As an advocate who has no financial ties with any business in Manly, can someone please explain to me how I could possibly have a pecuniary interest in whether or not the Council builds a carpark under the Oval?" Cr Bingham asked.
In an attempt to rectify the matter, Cr Bingham's motion at this week's Council meeting requested that a number of sections of the Council's Code of Meeting practice be amended to bring them back in line with the Local Government regulations, which by law, over-ride the Council's Code.
It became clear during the debate that a number of other Independent councillors have also had motions rejected on the basis they were 'out of order' and that this practice was in fact systemic in Manly Council.
Stating that "this is the way we have always done things" and "Our Code was approved by the Division in 2011" the Liberal Councillors voted 5-4 against amending the Code of Meeting Practice.
“Frankly, this is an outrage,” Cr Bingham said. “The political views of a councilor do not constitute a private interest and therefore cannot constitute a non-pecuniary interest, which is what Manly Council is saying.”
“There is no conflict between my views and my public duty. As a councillor I am required by the Local Government Act to ‘represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers and to facilitate communication between the community and the council’,” Cr Bingham said. “Just because the council does not like the fact that there is now major opposition to the Oval Car Park proposal does not give them the right to shut down the debate.”
(A copy of the rejected 2015 Motion and the Motion in relation to the amendment to the Code of Meeting Practice are below).
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.