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INFLUENCING RECOMMENDATIONS TO COUNCIL

ISSUE

Councillors who want to ‘win’ on an issue can inappropriately exert pressure on the administration to recommend supporting a particular view.

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SCENARIO

Susan strongly believes that a new housing development should contain expensive environmentally sustainable features. She thinks her fellow councillors will support the idea if the administration makes the recommendation. She’s been calling the relevant director and various council officers constantly trying to persuade them that the environmental features should be included in the recommendations to council. She’s also attempted to put pressure on them at task group and public meetings.

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WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

The administration’s role is to provide ‘frank and fearless’ advice to the council. This should be based on information, consultation and professional opinion. It should not be the result of pressure from councillors. Councillors will expect to be given high-quality, impartial advice and information, which will help them to form an opinion and make a decision in the council meeting. The challenge for councillors, who are pushing strongly for a particular decision, is to persuade their fellow councillors to support their view. They should not try to influence the final decision by pressuring the administration to support a particular view via its recommendation.

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HOW TO TACKLE THIS SITUATION

  • the mayor and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) need to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of roles – the administration’s role is to advise and implement, the council’s role is to consider the advice and make the decision
  • the mayor and CEO should provide leadership to reinforce these roles
  • the mayor and CEO should encourage good relationships between councillors and the administration so that communication does not spill over into undue influence
  • councillors and council officers should be clear that improper or undue influence is against the law
  • the administration and council need to ensure there are plenty of opportunities (as part of briefing sessions or in other ways) for councillors to investigate all the available options.

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