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FORCING COUNCIL DECISIONS

ISSUE

Councillors who insist that a council decision is nothing more than ‘common sense’ prevent proper discussion and debate.

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SCENARIO

Mary who has been a councillor for a number of years, is insisting that council make a particular decision on the hotly contested issue of the location for the new municipal offices. Her main argument in support of her position is that ‘it’s just common sense’.

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WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

There can often be a number of legitimate views on an issue even when there is good information and advice. Labelling one view as ‘common sense’ can imply that all the other views are not valid and that their proponents lack common sense. The debate then often focuses on the meaning of ‘common sense’ and personalities rather than on the issue itself.

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HOW TO TACKLE THIS SITUATION

  • ensure there is good process in place for making decisions
  • base the decision on advice and information, rather than on subjective views, such as ‘it’s just common sense’
  • ensure there is a good consultation process to find out what stakeholders really think
  • focus on the issues rather than on personal opinion
  • provide opportunities for all councillors to voice their opinion – the mayor’s role is important in providing leadership in the council.

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