Business takes a dim view of Wagga council's transparency

The city’s most successful business people consider Wagga council a closed shop.

Wagga’s leading think-tank, Committee 4 Wagga (C4W), polled 47 leading business identities and 96 per cent of respondents rated council's ability to communicate important issues fair, poor or very poor.

More than half the businesses surveyed turn over more than $5 million a year and nearly as many have offices in other regional areas. 

Not even elected councillors can directly contact senior management under changes enacted by suspended general manager Alan Eldridge. 

Now if a councillor has a question about council operations, they must must either email “executive support” or ring the general manager’s executive assistant, who passes the enquiry on. 

Little more than six months ago councillors were entitled to contact directors and ask them questions, be it their own or on behalf of a community member. 

It comes 11 months since The Daily Advertiser was last given permission to interview council’s senior management.

Local television news outlets have been afforded fortnightly interviews with the general manager but they agree to have their questions vetted and culled.

Mayor Greg Conkey, who is a professional communicator by trade, said council was a “big enough organisation to take the feedback on the chin”, although he noted “it’s a view of a small number of people”.

“Councillors try to get the positive news stories out in the media but it’s up to the media if they run them or not,” Cr Conkey said.

“There is reasonable communication between councillors and council.

Staff have always CC'd councillors into press releases as they go out.

“We may need to look at it to see if there's any shortcomings but it seems to work well.”

In a written statement, council declined to answer why prominent business people would consider the organisation opaque, but a spokeswoman welcomed community feedback.

“(Wagga council) is committed to continuous improvement in all areas of operations,” the spokeswoman said.

“In the results of the most recent independent community survey in 2015... 80 per cent of residents were somewhat satisfied to very satisfied with (council’s) overall performance - a significant improvement on the previous survey’s results.”

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