Tag Archives: Public Question Time

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

Monash Council Meeting Agenda! Hot Issues – What to look for?

Monash Council Meeting

The Next City of  Monash Council Meeting will be held on Tuesday 30 August 2016 from 7.00pm. You will need to submit your questions by noon  today (Monday 29 August).

Hot issues to pay extra attention too!

Hot issues Empowering Monash and You

Development: Five residential apartment towers 6-10 storeys in height and 17 double-storey townhouses

79 objections were submitted by public members: “Key issues raised within objections relate to neighbourhood character, visual bulk, overshadowing, design detail, compliance with residential policy, car parking provision, increased traffic, overlooking and residential amenity.” Source – Monash Council Agenda, 30 August 2016.

The Council has recommended to refuse the proposal!

Monash Community Grants Program:  Report relating to the 2017/18  Grants Program (MCGP) and assessments of applications.

Due to the Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement, funding will not be provided to applicants or community groups who meet at venues that have Electronic Gaming Machines. Already two organisations will be affected! There were some objections to this alteration .  

Links relating to this issue and comments: Dealing Monash Ratepayers a Dodgy Hand

Volunteering Everyone Counts!

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

City of Monash Council is recognising volunteers this year for their contribution to the community. Volunteers can be nominated for one of the inaugural Sir John Monash Awards.

 The awards have eight categories:

  • Volunteer of the Year
  • Women’s Leadership
  • Youth Leadership
  • Positive Ageing Leadership
  • Sustainability Leadership
  • Active Monash
  • Outstanding Advocate of People with Disabilities
  • Multicultural Champion

However the community should be aware that the criteria for these awards should be looked at before nominations are submitted. Even though it is stated on their website that local residents will be recognised, it does not mean that volunteers who are not City of Monash residents cannot be nominated for these awards. Anyone who has volunteered their time in the City of Monash are entitled for an award.

Even though Monash council is recognising volunteers by presenting them with awards there are other ways to show volunteers they are acknowledged and valued for their contributions. One of the ways this can be achieved is by changing their Local Law for Council meetings. At the moment volunteers who make a difference in the Monash Community are not able to ask questions at public question time during Council meetings if they do not reside in the City of Monash. Unfortunately Monash council seem to believe that they are not part of the community. You will find that there are volunteers who use Monash’s services and may need to ask an important question about a program or service at council meetings and unable to do so. If Monash Council wants to recognise volunteers for their input they can start off by changing their local law to include these volunteers. This could be a new and positive change for 2014.

http://savemonashgardens.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/monash-public-question-time-lags-behind-other-councils/

http://savemonashgardens.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/why-is-the-monash-mayor-discriminating/

http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/tag/discriminating-mayor/

Volunteers help make a difference in a community and every individual’s input counts even if a volunteer does not reside in that community. There are times that an issue or a program might bring together members from other communities and their contribution can influence and play a vital role. An example of this was the surprising campaign against the sale of Monash’s Aged Care facilities. This united volunteers from other communities and diverse backgrounds to help the Monash community fight a common cause. The difference volunteers can make to the community was brilliantly shown during the campaign – everyone counts!

volunteer

If you would like to know how to nominate a volunteer for one of these awards please go to Monash Council website. Nominations close on 9 April 2014.

http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/community/monash-awards.htm

Good luck to all the nominees and even if you have not been nominated, it does not matter because all volunteers are champions!