Thursday, 28 April 2016 17:12

Focus on: Penrith Panel delivers deliberative democracy

Penrith Community Panel with Mayor of Penrith City Council, Cllr Karen McKeown Penrith Community Panel with Mayor of Penrith City Council, Cllr Karen McKeown Penrith City Council

Like many parts of Western Sydney, the Penrith local government area is rapidly changing.

Unprecedented population growth, new development and shifting community needs are presenting a number of challenges as well as new opportunities for the region and its council.

Faced with the question ‘What must we do to make Penrith ready for the future?’ Penrith City Council decided to ask its community through a unique deliberative democracy initiative.

Working in partnership with non-for-profit research organisation newDemocracy, Penrith recruited 35 everyday people to participate in a community panel that would help shape the city’s future.

The panel was randomly selected by new Democracy and included Penrith residents from a range of backgrounds and walks of life.

The Panel was presented with information on what is currently happening in Penrith, the opportunities to improve their region as well as the challenges. 

Over the course of six meetings (between September and December 2015), and a combined total of 1500 hours, the Panel reviewed and deliberated on a number of issues, and this month released its recommendations to Council.

Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said Council applauded the Community Panel’s hard work and the enthusiasm with which they undertook the project to understand the complexity of running the growing regional city of Penrith.

“To delve into every facet of Council’s operations, explore the city’s opportunities and challenges and then to understand them and come up with recommendations that reflect the community’s aspirations is a phenomenal effort,” Councillor McKeown said.

“Council has given the Panel full access to whatever they’ve needed to know about our services. We’ve simply provided them the information they have requested and left them to it.

“The recommendations will tell us what the community see as the priorities for our city and how we are going to deliver the services and infrastructure Penrith needs.”

“The city and council are going through a period of rapid growth and change. Council has future proofed itself for the city by doing a number of things including undertaking a comprehensive Financial Capacity Review (FCR) to determine future funding and efficiently prioritise projects and services.”

“The Community Panel has been an important part of our looking to the future and ensuring we are on the right track. By going through Council’s plans, finances, services and capacity so diligently, their report will help set achievable and affordable community priorities for Council to deliver.”

The Panels’ final recommendations, released last month, include a number of recommendations regarding:

• Getting around the city
• Health and community spirit
• Income and expenditure
• Jobs closer to home
• Environment
• Planning for future growth
• Safe and vibrant places.

A Council spokesperson highlighted the value of the deliberative democracy initiative.

“This has been a thoroughly worthwhile process. Councillors said they were impressed with the dedication of the Community Panel members and the thorough consideration behind their recommendations.”

“The Community Panel has given council a deeper understanding of community expectations, and created a greater appreciation of the work that Penrith City Council does on a day-to-day basis,” said the spokesperson.

The Panel’s full report can be viewed via Penrith City Council's website.

Penrith Community Panel: The City We Want -

Last modified on Thursday, 28 April 2016 17:16