“Council wasn’t elected to be experts,” so says Nigel Bellchamber, local government consultant who facilitated a planning and priorities session for South Dundas council and senior staff, February 11, at the McIntosh Country Inn, Morrisburg.
“I think the session was a good refresher of council/staff roles, as we can all get into poor habits,” said South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds following the meeting.
Bellchamber spoke about the decision-making process which starts with identifying an issue.
“These issues can come from anywhere, once they are identified, they are thrown to staff for analysis and recommendations,” said Bellchamber, a municipal expert.
“Staff are paid to solve problems. It’s not up to council to solve them themselves,” he said.
Once staff makes a recommendation, council then decides whether or not to support the recommendation.
“Eighty-five percent of the time council agrees with staff,” said Bellchamber. After the decision is made, it is then up to staff to implement the measures.
“That’s the way it should work,” said Bellchamber.
When council and staff are in sync, it allows council to spend the bulk of their time on, what Bellchamber calls, the most important issues, meaning those decisions which are more contentious or difficult.
While the morning was spent discussing council and staff roles, the focus of the afternoon session was working together to identify priorities.
“We did identify some priorities and they will come to light in the budget process and over the next two years,” said Byvelds.
While council members had the opportunity to identify and rank their priorities, Byvelds did not see one that stood out among the group.
The cost of the special session was approximately $2,000.