Residents are getting the chance to take their concerns straight to the top of their local government as Tamworth council launches a series of 'councillor catch-ups' across the region. The second-ever catch-up at Molly May's in Manilla on Saturday, December 2, attracted a crowd of around 80 people. The catch-ups come as residents increasingly call for more transparency on how TRC manages rates, roads, and other public assets. "The special rate variation was certainly a hot topic with a number of people I spoke to," Cr Mark Rodda said. "There was a bit of venting, but I also made it clear the recent decision isn't the end. It still has to go to IPART and I encourage people to make submissions to IPART when they get the opportunity." The catch-ups are part of council's new communications strategy, that it began rolling out at the start of 2023. The meeting at Molly May's was the last one for this year, but the Leader understands they'll be a regular occurrence in 2024. Cr Rodda was joined in Manilla by mayor Russell Webb, deputy mayor Judy Coates, and fellow councillors Marc Sutherland and Steve Mears. Cr Rodda and Cr Mears were the only two of Tamworth's nine councillors to vote against a proposal to apply to state regulator IPART for a 36.3 per cent special rate variation across the next two years. Other discussions with residents covered a range of topics from street cleaning to road maintenance and local land conservation efforts. Cr Sutherland told the Leader the catch-up was a great way to cut through the usual red tape of local government communication. "It was a great opportunity to make sure we're hearing those concerns directly from residents themselves rather than going through a series of staff conversations," he said. The first-term councillor said he's always tried to make himself approachable and available, but having a dedicated meeting space is useful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he said, it gets councillors out of the city and into rural areas, where residents often say they feel left out of the conversation. "People in our towns and communities outside of Tamworth want to make sure they're getting their fair share and aren't forgotten," Cr Sutherland said. Despite more councillors attending than initially expected, the event still ran over time in order to give each resident a one-on-one conversation. Both Cr Rodda and Cr Sutherland told the Leader they're looking forward to participating in more councillor catch-ups in the new year. "Face-to-face meetings are a way for people to see if you're fair dinkum or not. I think it's a worthwhile opportunity to sort out some issues with people in a more personalised manner," Cr Rodda said. But the former deputy mayor also said the council has a long way to go in delivering the kind of transparency residents are asking for. "We're not quite there yet. There's still more we need to do in terms of enhancing transparency and accountability, especially when it comes to discussions between council and developers," Cr Rodda said. More information on upcoming catch-ups and other ways Tamworth Regional Council is aiming to improve communication with residents can be found on council's website.