Council clears up briefing meetings

Weddin Shire Council will continue to hold briefings prior to its monthly meetings with the general manager to now chair the meetings instead of the mayor.

Councillor Phil Diprose moved for the change to be made after tabling a motion calling for the change and a number of others, at the September council meeting.

Councillors Nevin, Best and Brown voted against the change.

Cr Diprose put three motions, "all three are housekeeping" to the meeting.

Two were approved without comment.

The first motion, will see the retention of recordings of Council meetings for at least 12 months as is now prescribed under the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.

Cr Diprose's second motion will see the agenda and business papers for Ordinary meetings of Council be made available to the public via publishing on Council's website by close of business the day after they have been made available to Councillors.

Cr Diprose's third motion called for changes to the briefing meetings the council currently holds prior to its monthly meeting.

"Inclusion of this was a consequence community feedback where some people who have seen the webcast (of our meetings) have formed the view that we just appear to be approving what is in the business paper without a lot of debate," Cr Diprose said.

At present Councillors and senior staff attend a workshop on the Monday preceding each monthly Ordinary meeting of Council. These meetings are not compulsory and are chaired by the Mayor.

No vote is taken on matters discussed.

Under the change the pre-meeting briefing will be chaired by the general manager or a member of staff nominated by the general manager.

Councillors must not use pre-meeting briefing sessions to debate or make preliminary decisions on items of business they are being briefed on, and any debate and decision-making must be left to the formal council or committee meeting.

Councillors (including the mayor) must declare and manage any conflicts of interest they may have in relation to any item of business that is the subject of a briefing.

The council is to maintain a written record of all conflict of interest declarations made at pre-meeting briefing sessions and how the conflict of interest was managed by the councillor who made the declaration.

"Doing it this way it is clearly a briefing chaired by the general manager," Cr Diprose said.

"It is not a decision making meeting and we've never made decisions in those meetings.

"On a Monday we have a briefing so when we come to the council meeting we're all across it," he said.

Cr Niven wasn't convinced stating "I have serious reservations about it".

"When does discussion become a debate?" he asked.

"Whether you call it a workshop or a briefing session it is basically the same. Not in favour of any of this," he said.

Cr Carly Brown said she was confident the workshops have been a successful tool to go into the Council meeting with as much information as possible and saw no need for change.

"They're not a forum where we make a decision. I am confident the workshops are going along wonderfully and don't need an amendment.

"The way we conduct the workshop is for information for directors to give as much information as possible to assist council make informed decisions.

"If our meetings generally seem to be flowing well, it is off the back of us being given the correct and right information," Cr Brown said.

Cr Best said he too was happy to continue as council currently is.

In reply Cr Diprose said he was trying to avoid the briefings being seen as a committee meeting of the council.

"(We're) not changing what we are doing except the general manager chairs the meeting. It's good practice," Cr Diprose said.

Councillors Niven, Best and Brown voted against the change.