NEW MOVE: Public to get question time at council meetings
MEMBERS of the public will be given question time at Livingstone Shire Council meetings after a push by Cr Nigel Hutton got across the line.
Cr Hutton’s idea needed majority support from his colleagues to come to fruition, and he got that at the last monthly meeting.
Only councillors Glenda Mather and Andrea Friend objected to the move.
The interesting development means that during question time at each ordinary meeting, a maximum of 15 minutes will be allocated to permit members of the public to ask questions of councillors.
But there will be rules.
At the direction of the chairperson, a community member may rise, provide their name, and ask their question.
Each question will be capped at 90 seconds and must be asked “categorically”, and without argument.
Further, no discussion shall be permitted at the meeting in relation to a reply, or a refusal to reply to a question.
A councillor to whom a question is asked without notice, will also be able to request that the question be taken on notice, with a written answer to be provided in the minutes of a future meeting.
Cr Mather spoke and voted against the move, saying she did not want council meetings to “return to the bad old days”.
“I’ve done pretty well everything now,” Cr Mather said.
“Even involved in those interactions from the gallery at the time.
“It was quite a volatile situation back then – 13 councillors, hostile community, factions.
“And it was a prime opportunity for the chairman to allow people to come into the gallery to ridicule a councillor.
“I’m not saying that would happen here, and I’m sure it wouldn’t happen under this leadership.
“But I’ve seen it happen – it caused division.”
Cr Friend also spoke and voted against the move.
“I’m extremely pleased with what our council has achieved in the name of transparency for the last three-and-a-half months in office,” she said.
Cr Friend cited the introduction of live streaming of council meetings, a public survey offered to all ratepayers in relation to the financial budget, and the establishment of a new community voice panel, as examples.
“There is not one of us elected to office…that will not engage with our community who ask us questions and require information.
“We have resolved to take no pay rise, we have commenced our relaxed and casual community consultations, once again welcoming the public to speak and engage with us.”
The first opportunity for question time is Livingstone’s monthly meeting held tomorrow.
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