The Narrandera Shire Council has proposed an overhaul of section 355 committees.
Under the Council’s proposals, most section 355 committees would be stream-lined under five main umbrella committees, and the original committees would become volunteer groups.
An objection to the proposed mergers was raised by Cr Jenny Clarke at the Council’s meeting last week.
“There have been several incidents of 355 committees not quite meeting standards. Isn’t it up to the Council to fix that? And why amalgamate? I don’t see how this is going to work,” Cr Clarke said. “You’ve said here that you want to review all current constitutions. Does that mean that all of those on these committees are going to be sacked?”
Deputy General Manager Corporate and Community Martin Hiscox said that in light of Narrandera Shire Council’s recent audit, changes were needed to be implemented in the way that section 355 committees were run.
The auditor’s report recommended that Council monitor the controls in place with regards to Section 355 committees to ensure suf-ficient and regular reporting to Council.
“At the moment we do have a large number of 355 committees,” Mr Hiscox said. “If it’s possible to rationalise some committees it will cut back on administration costs.”
Mr Hiscox said that there had been problems with committees meeting basic governance and accounting standards.
“Things like strongly documented minutes – there are deficiencies.”
Council has already extended deadlines for committees to provide proper records, reports and accounts.
“We have 60 per cent of 355 committees who haven’t provided the proper financial reports. Section 355 committees are a risk to council. We’ve been more like police; we’ve been chasing people for minutes and chasing people for reports,” Mr Hiscox said.
Cr Narelle Payne endorsed the proposal.
“I think this is a strong point. We’re talking about consolidation firstly. That’s a better use of resources. I think it’s pretty much a win-win situation.”
Cr Tracey Lewis said that change was needed in the way that section 355 committees were run.
“I just don’t understand why it needs to be so hard. I’m on the wetlands committee. We haven’t had a meeting all year,” Cr Lewis said.
Regardless of whether the mergers go ahead or not, Council would still like to review the way Section 355 committees operate.
Suggestions are already in place to assist committees with meeting the requirements for operating, such as help and advice with taking detailed minutes, or lodging the appropriate financial reports.
The five umbrella committees would be Environment, Cultural and Community, Sporting Facilities, Better Barellan and Better Grong Grong.
The Sports Stadiums and the Sportsground committees would amalgamate under Sporting Facilities, and the existing committees would become a second tier – Volunteers of the Sports Stadium, for example.
There are six section 355 committees that Council have elected to keep outside of the amalgamation.
The Australia Day Planning and the John O’Brien Planning committees have been left alone, as their primary function is for a particular event. The Narrandera/Leeton Airport Committee will not amalgamate, due to the need to work with Leeton Shire.
Two Floodplain Risk Committees, one in Narrandera and one in Barellan, will remain separate. These committees deal with action and response in times of flood, and their potentially lifesaving reliance on local knowledge makes their separation essential.
According to Council, the Library Committee is no longer functioning and will be disbanded.