COMMENTS ON E.S.C. SUBMISSION RE PROPOSED MODEL CODE OF MEETING PRACTICE
My name is Jim Bright. I'm a resident of Narooma.
I'm here today to provide some comments on one of the General Manager's recommendations to you about the submission that is proposed to be sent by this council to the Office of Local Government (OLG) on its draft Model Code of Meeting Practice.
The matter that I want to address can be found at the top of page 13 of today's agenda papers. It is the matter relating to clause 9.9 in OLG's draft model code. Clause 9.9 is one of four mandatory clauses, governing the use of 'mayoral minutes', that OLG is proposing should be contained in all council meeting codes in future.
This particular proposed provision (at the top left hand side of page 13) is -
“9.9 A mayoral minute must not be used to put, without notice, matters that are routine and not urgent, or matters for which proper notice should be given for their complexity.”
The GM is recommending (on the right hand side of the page) that you “do not support this inclusion as the Mayor should have the authority to include a matter on the agenda as per Section 243 of Local Government Regulation 2005”.
By way of background - the term “mayoral minute” is used to describe a motion that a mayor is allowed, under the provisions of regulation 243, to put to a council meeting without notice. That regulation places no limitations on the circumstances in which a mayor might choose to put such a motion.
What the GM is recommending in her report is that you oppose OLG's proposal to put some mandatory limitations around the use of mayoral minutes. The GM is recommending that a mayor should have an unfettered power to put any type of motion to councillors without notice.
I'd like to make the following couple points about this.
Firstly – a very relevant pertinent piece of information that the GM has not provided you with is to be found in the “Meetings Practice Note”. This practice note was originally issued by OLG in 2009 and you will find it still prominently displayed on the OLG website. This 70 page document is the principal source of policy advice on how council officials are expected to appropriately conduct council meetings in this State.
In part 2.7 (on page 14) of that note, you will find the following instruction.
“Mayoral minutes should not be used to introduce, without notice, matters that are routine, not urgent, or need research or a lot of consideration by councillors before coming to a decision. These types of matters would be better placed on the agenda with the usual period of notice being given to the councillors”. (And, might I dare say, to the community as well!)
So, since at least 2009, the expectation has been that council officials would not be using the option of a mayoral minute in inappropriate circumstances such as those set out in part 2.7.
All that OLG is now proposing through its new code, is to ensure that this long-standing (and completely appropriate) practice instruction should now become a mandatory feature of council meetings in future.
I think that we can safely assume that OLG's decision is most likely a reaction to the identification of too many instances of councils ignoring the government's policy advice and using the provisions of regulation 243 in an inappropriate and improper manner.
The second comment that I would like to make about this particular issue is that the staff report that is before us today provides no explanation whatsoever for the recommendation that you should reject this OLG proposal. It may be that councillors were given, and were convinced by, an explanation at one of your briefings – but that's not good enough in the world of transparency and accountability that is now supposed to prevail within this State.
For obvious transparency and accountability reasons, the community needs to know the reasons for why you don't support the OLG proposal, if that is what you decide here today.