The newly formed Willoughby Citizen’s Panel is preparing to present its Citizen’s Report on August 12.
The report will represent the work of 40 Willoughby residents who worked together throughout June to analyse Willoughby’s asset base and address Council short falls.
The panel was selected from a random mail out to 1600 residents, as part of Willoughby Council’s efforts to promote democracy and community engagement.
Vice President of the Castle Cove Progress Association, Steve Zabeti, was part of the Citizen’s Panel.
Mr Zabeti said: “Having resided within Willoughby since 1985, attending local primary and secondary schools, it was an opportunity to volunteer my support and experience towards sustainable suburban planning and maintaining valuable community assets.”
Throughout June, panel members attended workshops and information sessions to increase their knowledge of Willoughby’s community needs and assets. The panel then developed cost management and revenue raising suggestions.
“Panel members worked as a collective of concerned residents in identifying expectations, debating principles, discussing solutions, analysing results and summarising three days of deliberations into the final Citizen’s Panel Report,” said Mr Zabeti.
Revenue raising solutions, suggested in the Citizen’s Report, include the leasing of footpaths to cafes, asset sales and maximising developer revenue through full cost recovery of Development Applications.
The report also suggests increasing the amount of Council volunteers and decreasing the amount of services as money saving solutions.
The Citizen’s Panel facilitated lively discussion between residents.
“There were differences of opinion and points of contention which were made all the more satisfying once the final pieces began falling into place,” said Mr Zabeti.
The report will be used to assist the Council as it develops a long-term financial plan. Estimated expenditure for asset provision may be adjusted according to the panel’s suggestions, however safety and long-term financial sustainability will also be taken into consideration.
The Citizen’s Panel is part of the ‘NewDemocracy’ initiative, which has been developed within NSW and Australia. According to Councillor John Hooper, ‘NewDemocracy’ “facilitates community feedback”.
“The facilitators working through the ‘NewDemocracy’ template aren’t influenced by counsellors or extraneous factors,” said Cr Hooper.