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Lobbying your Local COUNCIL

In this piece, I am going to very much focus on strategy, procedure and due process of local council and the best way you can make your voice heard in your local council. The first key ingredient to a successful lobbying campaign is .....


KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE ....


Knowing who you are speaking to and the length and limitations of their jurisdiction is key to success ....


So, when it comes to LOBBYING your LOCAL COUNCIL, here are some tips to ensure you have a successful campaign!! I am going to use Western Australia as a case study example, but this applies in most Council jurisdictions.

It is important to also:

  1. Do your research - put together research reports, petitions and summarise facts and data in your submission

  2. Know your story - focus on not only the problem you wish to tackle, but bring solutions and suggestions to the table!

  3. Know when you can speak - understand due process and council procedure

  4. Make Councillors your friends - meet with them prior to the council meeting to try and get them on side

  5. Turn up with your tribe - get there early, get there often!

BECOME A SQUEKY WHEEL TO BE HEARD!


.... but .... you need to learn to squeak in the right way!


Understanding your Local Council is a major part of that.


Squeak at the right time, in the right way, to the right people ...


Here is an instructive as to the vision of Local Government portfolios ...



In this Blog, I will be covering:

1. Know your Jurisdiction

2. Know your Audience

3. Know your Subject Matter

4. Know the Structure of the Meeting

5. Know your Points of Argument

6. Know the Outcome that you Seek

7. Know How to Follow Up

8. Know When to Strike

In fact, did you know that, as a local member, you can have a say in the reform of your Local Council? Here is some info:

1. KNOW YOUR JURISDICTION

The State is divided into districts, each with its own local government. Currently, there are 137 local governments in Western Australia.


Local governments vary greatly in their characteristics, with their size ranging from less than 1.5 to over 370,000 square kilometres.

  • The populations of local government districts range from just over 100 to more than 220,000.

  • The number of staff employed in each local government varies from less than 10 to over 1000.

  • In 2019-20 total revenue for local governments in Western Australia ranged from just over $2 million to just over $225 million.

Local governments are categorised as either:

  • shires, which are generally local governments with mainly rural populations;

  • towns, which are generally small (mainly urban) population centres; or

  • cities, with larger urban population centres.

The Relevant Legislation

The principal Act from which local governments gain their power is the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act). Other important statutes include the Bush Fires Act 1954, the Cemeteries Act 1986, the Dog Act 1976, the Cat Act 2011, and the Environmental Protection Act  1986 (WA).


The Local Government Act provides for a system of local government by creating a constitution for elected local government in the State. It describes the functions of local governments, how elections should be conducted and establishes a framework for the administration and financial management of local governments, including the scrutiny of their affairs.


Under the Local Government Act, local governments have the general power to provide for the good governance of people in their district. This means that local governments can make decisions if the Act or any other written law does not prevent them from doing so. A local government can make local laws (legislative function) and provide services and facilities (executive function).


Local governments also derive powers from other Acts, including the Public Health Act 2016, which vests wide ranging powers in local governments to ensure the health of each community is safeguarded, and the Planning and Development Act 2005, which gives local governments the power to prepare local planning schemes and ensure orderly development.


The powers of local governments to provide services and facilities, and make local laws, are derived from legislation passed in the State Parliament.


The executive functions of local government include the administration of local laws and the provision of services and facilities. A local government can provide any service or facility that is necessary or convenient for the good governance of the people in its district or for the performance of any other function under the Act.


Before commencing provision of a service or facility, a local government must satisfy itself that the service or facility integrates with State or Commonwealth services, does not inappropriately duplicate any State, Commonwealth or private service, and is managed efficiently and effectively.


The Act gives local governments freedom to make decisions for their communities, promotes public participation, and demands accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness in local government.


This requires strategic thinking by local government, including how to:

  • best respond to community needs;

  • ensure public participation and accountability in local government processes; and

  • respond to the growing demand for more efficient and effective local government.

In addition to dealing with changing legislative requirements and reforms, local governments' purpose is to ensure the best possible measures are taken to organise physical, financial and human resources to achieve a competitive and productive organisation that meets the needs and desires of the community it serves.

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Another important priority is to understand who you will be presenting to, and what their powers include. Let's go through a few basics now.


The Role of Council

The role of the Council, as prescribed by the Act, is that it:

  • governs the local government’s affairs;

  • is responsible for the performance of the local government’s functions;

  • oversees the allocation of the local government’s finances and resources; and

  • determines the local government’s policies.

The role of each councillor, as prescribed by the Act, is to:

  • represent the interests of electors, ratepayers and residents;

  • provide leadership and guidance to the community;

  • facilitate communication between the community and the council;

  • participate in decision making processes at meetings; and

  • perform such other functions as are given to a councillor by the Act or any other written law.

The role of the mayor or president is to:

  • preside at council meetings (ensure meetings are conducted in a correct and orderly manner while remaining impartial);

  • carry out civic and ceremonial duties (such as conducting citizenship ceremonies);

  • speak on behalf of the local government;

  • liaise with the CEO on the local government’s affairs and the performance of its functions; and

  • provide leadership and guidance to the community.

The role of a mayor or president also includes the role of a councillor. A mayor or president has no authority to make decisions as an individual other than to authorise expenditure in an emergency.


The CEO is the chief executive (non-elected) officer. His or her function is to:

  • advise council in relation to the local government’s functions;

  • ensure that information is available to council to guide decisions;

  • cause council decisions to be implemented;

  • manage the day to day operations of the local government;

  • liaise with the mayor or president on the local government’s affairs and performance of functions;

  • speak on behalf of the local government if the mayor or president agrees;

  • be responsible for the employment, management, supervision, direction, and dismissal of other employees; and

  • ensure that the records and documents of the local government are properly kept.

The CEO acts as the conduit between council members and council staff. All other council staff, including engineers, planners, financial managers, administrators and outside workers, ultimately receive their direction from, and are responsible to, the CEO.


The City of Stirling Council Meeting dated 7 December 2021 live stream here will assist you with understanding due process.


3. KNOW YOUR SUBJECT MATTER

It is important to come prepared .... know your subject matter.


Do your research. Put together your speech, a petition, this about what portion is relevant to your matter, put together a community REPORT and put together a coalition team of locals, business owners, experts and others that can speak to your subject matter.


Procedure is important.



As the level of government closest to the people, a local government must be accessible to its community. The effective administration of the local government area depends on the performance of elected members as the elected community leaders.


The high public expectations of elected members are set out by the description of the role of council in section 2.7 of the Act;

  • to govern the local government’s affairs;

  • responsible for the performance of the local government’s functions;

  • oversee the allocation of the local government’s finances and resources; and

  • determine the local government’s policies.

Elected members are responsible for planning the future of their communities and developing the strategies and policies to achieve those plans. Councillors need to demonstrate strategic vision and leadership by putting in place guiding principles, policies and local laws.


Council Meeting Standards

Well prepared agendas, orderly meetings and minutes that accurately reflect the actual decisions of council meetings are arguably the most important records of local governments.


Well prepared agendas and accurate minutes ensure that:

  • Council has acted within its authority under the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act); and

  • the council’s decision making process is properly documented, transparent and accountable.

Legislative requirements are based on the principles of the Act and relevant supporting regulations for achieving;

  • transparent and effective processes and decision making in the public interest;

  • sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services;

  • democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement;

  • good governance of, and by, local government; and

  • ethical and legal behaviour of elected members and local government employees.

The conduct of open, fair and accountable meetings of local government is important in fulfilling these principles.


Of all the meetings elected members attend, ordinary council meetings are arguably the most important. Meeting procedure is based on a majority rules, Westminster style system developed over hundreds of years by parliaments around the world to provide for debate and decision making without conflict.


Decisions of a council can only be made by the adoption of a motion by a majority of the members present at a properly convened meeting. The rules allow for only one person to speak at a time.


Effective contribution to and representation at meetings by elected members increases the quality of council decisions. Elected members should have knowledge of the following Acts, Regulations, and Department of Local Government and Communities (Department) guidelines to assist them at meetings:

  • Local Government Act 1995

  • Local Government (Administration) Regulations 1996

  • Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007

  • Defamation Act 2005

  • Council Local Laws (especially Standing Orders)

  • Department’s A Guide to the Preparation of Agendas and Minutes

  • Department’s Operational Guidelines:

    • No 1 Disclosure of Interests Affecting Impartiality

    • No 3 Managing Public Question Time

    • No 5 Council Forums

    • No 6 Disruptive Behaviour by the Public at Council Meetings

    • No 7 Clarity in Council Motions

    • No 20 Disclosure of Financial Interests at Council Meetings.

Elected members are required by section 2.29 of the Act and Local Government (Constitution) Regulation 13 (1)(c) to make a declaration of Office to ‘take the office upon myself and will duly, faithfully, honestly, and with integrity, fulfil the duties of the office for the people in the district according to the best of my judgment and ability, and will observe the Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007.’


One of the explicit principles within the Act involves the ethical and legal behaviour of elected members. With respect to conduct, the Act has provisions (sections 5.102A to 5.125 of the Act) for reporting and investigation of these matters. Elected members are also subject to the provisions of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003 and the Defamation Act 2005.


The public interest must always take precedence over the private interests of elected members.


Private interests include financial and non-financial interests, electoral gifts, as itemised in the council’s electoral gifts register, and the register of financial interests, maintained at each local government by the CEO.

Under the Act, elected members have a responsibility to take particular action where questions of financial interest or conflicts of interest affecting impartiality arise in council deliberations or decisions.


Compliance with the standards of conduct at meetings are established under the Rules of Conduct Regulations and their council’s Standing Orders Local Law or meeting policy.


These Standing Orders or policy should reflect the high expectations of performance and accountability, as set out in the Local Government Act (s2.10 (a) to (e)) whereby an elected member:

  • represents the interests of electors, ratepayers and residents of the district;

  • provides leadership and guidance to the community in the district;

  • facilitates communication between the community and the council;

  • participates in the local government’s decision making processes at council and committee meetings; and

  • performs such other functions as are given to a councillor by the Act or any other written law.

4. KNOW THE STRUCTURE OF THE MEETING

Types of Council Meetings

Elected members participate in:

  • ordinary council meetings where council conducts its core business;

  • council committee meetings – standing committees are appointed by some councils to oversee specific functions, projects or programs;

  • special council meetings called on occasions to address an urgent item of business; and

  • forums (also referred to as briefing sessions) that allow elected members and officers to meet through an informal meeting setting and discuss matters relating to the operation and affairs of their local government outside of the formal council meeting framework. Elected members may ask questions but decisions are not allowed to be made at these forums, as they are outside the formal council meeting framework.

Section 5.3 of the Act requires a council to hold ordinary meetings and provides that they may hold special meetings. Ordinary meetings are to be held not more than three (3) months apart.


Ordinary council meetings are formal meetings of the elected council members and are required to be open to the public, although under certain conditions, council meetings can be closed under provisions of the Act.


When required, a special meeting of council may be called by the Mayor or President or by at least one third of the councillors. The CEO will convene the special meeting and arrange public notice if the meeting is to be open to the public.


A special meeting requires that:

  • public notice be given and it must specify the purpose of the meeting; and

  • it must only deal with the item of business as set out in the notice of the meeting.

Although special meetings of council are to be open to members of the public, if in the opinion of the CEO it is not practicable to advertise the details of the meeting in the newspaper, then a public notice providing the details and purpose of the meeting must be given by whatever means the CEO considers to be practicable (e.g. display on notice boards, at public library, on council website).

See s5.23 of the Act and regulation 12 (4) of the Local Government (Administration) Regulations 1996.


Participation by Instantaneous Communications

Section 5.25(ba) of the Act provides for the holding of council or committee meetings by telephone, video conference or other electronic means. The record of meeting attendance must contain the name and other required details of any member not physically present who has been approved by council (absolute majority required) to attend a council or committee meeting by telephone, video conference or by other electronic means (Administration regulations 11(a) and 14A).


For the purposes of Administration regulation 14A, a person who is not physically present at a council or committee meeting is to be taken to be present if;

  • the person is simultaneously in audio contact with each other person present at the meeting by telephone or other instantaneous communication means;

  • the person is in a suitable place (approved by absolute majority); and

  • the council has approved (by absolute majority) of the arrangement.

A council cannot grant its approval for non-physical attendance if to do so would mean that at more than half of the meetings of the council or the committee, as the case may be, in that financial year, a person was taken to be present, in accordance with regulation 14A. It is recommended that such applications to council should be in writing.

A person is taken to be no longer in attendance at a meeting if they cease to be in instantaneous communication with each other person present at the meeting. Any such cessation in attendance of a person not physically in attendance must be recorded in the minutes in the chronological order it occurs. The effect of such a cessation on the quorum requirements must be carefully monitored and action taken as necessary.


For a person to non-physically attend a council or a committee meeting, the council has to approve (by absolute majority) a suitable place for the person to be physically present at during the course of the specific meeting. A suitable place prescribed by Administration regulation 14A(4), is one that is located;

  • in a townsite (as defined under section 3(1) of the Land Administration Act 1997) or other residential area; and

  • 150km or further from the place at which the meeting is to be held, in accordance with the notice calling the meeting.

The minutes of a meeting, where an approval is granted relating to a member’s attendance at a council or committee meeting by telephone, video conference of other electronic means, must clearly show that the council has approved of the arrangement and clearly identify the approved suitable place. The minutes must also confirm that such approval was adopted by absolute majority.


Well Structured Agendas

A well-structured agenda is directed towards decision-making and will not include superfluous information or items. It is generally agreed that short, sharp meetings directed towards decisions are the ones most likely to achieve good results.


One of the requirements of the Act (s5.56 and Administration Regulations, 19BA; 19B; 19CA; 19C; 19DA; 19DB; 19D) is for a local government to plan for the future of the district. This includes a Strategic Community Plan, Corporate Business Plan, Long Term Financial Plan, Asset Management Plan and Workforce Plan.


At council and committee meetings elected members will generally discuss and debate strategic issues associated with these plans and avoid the detail of operational matters and the day-to-day management of council, which is the responsibility of the CEO.

A strategic meeting focus requires:

  • linkages to the strategic community plan, corporate business plan, asset management plan, financial forecast and operational plan;

  • well-structured reports and recommendations clearly identifying linkages to the strategic community plan and corporate planning documents and emphasising policy, budgetary legal and risk management implications; and

  • use of delegations to free up the full council meeting to devote more time and energy to strategic policy issues.

If strategic planning links cannot be identified on agenda items, it is reasonable to ask why council is discussing or debating such issues.


The use of delegation can free up the full council meeting to devote more time and energy to key strategic policy issues.


A wide range of powers may be delegated under sections 5.16, 5.17, 5.42, 5.43 and 5.44 of the Act. Section 5.8 of the Act allows for local government to establish committees of three or more persons to assist the council and to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the local government that can be delegated to committees.


The provisions of the Act which provide for delegations by a local government or its CEO are:

  • section 5.16(1), subject to section 5.17 of the Act, provides that a local government may delegate (by absolute majority) to a committee any of its powers and duties, other than this power of delegation;

  • section 5.42(1) of the Act allows a local government to delegate (by absolute majority) to the CEO the exercise of any of its powers or the discharge of any of its duties under the Act other than those referred to in section 5.43 of the Act; and

  • using the authority of section 5.44(1) of the Act, a CEO may delegate to any employee of the local government the exercise of any of the CEO’s powers or the discharge of any of the CEO’s duties under the Act other than this power of delegation.

Ordinary meetings of council should usually consider high level and strategic matters linked to strategic and operational plans. It is essential to prioritise agenda items in a way that identifies the key strategic issues.


A well-structured agenda assists elected members to get the most out of their meetings, enabling them to make informed decisions that come from analysis of sound advice and constructive debate.


The agenda responsibility rests with the CEO, and the agenda sets out the order of business for council’s ordinary meetings and committee meetings. An elected member may recommend, through the Mayor/President, for the CEO to have a matter included on a meeting agenda. Councils will normally have a procedure in place for dealing with how such a member request is organised, including timelines and notice and requiring an officer’s report with recommendations.


As required under section 5.5 of the Act, each elected member will receive written notice of the meeting at least seventy two (72) hours before the meeting. In the case of special meetings of council less than seventy two (72) hours’ notice of a meeting may be necessary.


Most council and committee meetings to which a local government power or duty has been delegated, will be open to the public. However section 5.23(2) of the Act states that a local government may resolve that a meeting or part of the meeting be closed to the public, only if its elected members consider it necessary to deal with any of the following reasons under Section 5.23 (2)(3) of the Local Government Act:

  1. a matter affecting an employee or employees;

  2. the personal affairs of any person;

  3. a contract entered into, or which may be entered into, by the local government and which relates to a matter to be discussed at the meeting;

  4. legal advice obtained, or which may be obtained, by the local government and which relates to a matter to be discussed at the meeting;

  5. a matter that if disclosed, would reveal—

    1. a trade secret; or

    2. information that has a commercial value to a person; or

    3. information about the business, professional, commercial or financial affairs of a person,

where the trade secret or information is held by, or is about, a person other than the local government;

  1. a matter that if disclosed, could be reasonably expected to—

    1. impair the effectiveness of any lawful method or procedure for preventing, detecting, investigating or dealing with any contravention or possible contravention of the law; or

    2. endanger the security of the local government’s property; or

    3. prejudice the maintenance or enforcement of a lawful measure for protecting public safety;

  2. information which is the subject of a direction given under section23(1a) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act1971; and

  3. such other matters as may be prescribed.

  4. A decision to close a meeting or part of a meeting and the reason for the decision are to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

If these matters are known in advance, it should be clearly listed on the agenda as a matter that will be considered while the meeting is closed to the public. At the time in the agenda, the council must resolve to close the meeting to the public.


Items of Interest to the Public

Section5.25(1)(j) of the Act requires that a local government is to ensure that notice papers and agenda relating to any council or committee meeting and reports and documents which are to be either tabled at the meeting, or have been produced by the local government or a committee for presentation at the meeting, and have been made available to members of the council or committee:

  • are available for inspection by members of the public from the time the notice papers, agenda or documents were made available to the members of the council or the committee.

Each council has the capacity to determine the order that the agenda items will be dealt with. It is recommended that council meetings should endeavour to proceed with the order of business as detailed on the agenda of the notice of the meeting.


This is important from the point of view of members of the public who attend council or committee meetings for a specific agenda matter. The council’s Standing Orders usually prescribe the order of business and the process to change that order at the meeting.

5. KNOW YOUR POINTS OF ARGUMENT

Debating at a Council Meeting

The purpose of debate at meetings is so that elected members can:

  • give information that will help move the meeting closer to a decision about the motion that is before it; and

  • influence the meeting to make a certain decision about the motion that is before it.

It is necessary for elected members to structure any intended debate material in preparation for any agenda matter they wish to speak in support of, or against.


Elected members should have a clear idea of their own arguments and which examples they will be using to support their arguments. There should be a clear division between arguments put forward to support their position and to let the other members know when they are moving from one argument to the next.


This sign posting is an important debating tool for elected members to acquire and develop. It must be remembered that although the elected member knows exactly what he or she is saying, the meeting has never heard it before so the message must be logical (makes sense), clear and easily understood by the other members.


Rebuttal of argument, or points raised at the meeting by a former speaker, or rebuttal of the arguments that are out in the public arena concerning the matter before the meeting, should be organised in the same way. Each argument or point made that the elected member is opposed to should be rebutted (challenged) in turn.


This can be done by spending a little time on each and then moving on. This will help weaken the opposing view and strengthen the elected member’s case. Rebuttal should never personalise.


There is no one size fits all way of taking part in a meeting debate and presenting an argument at a local government meeting. Elected members should strive to develop a manner or style that is natural to them.


The following proven practical tips should be of help to elected members:

  • endeavour to be calm and in control prior to rising to speak. The practice of relaxation techniques, such as controlled deep breathing and body muscle flex and release, are good habit options for elected members to consider adopting;

  • address the Presiding Member, maintain eye contact to capture and hold the meeting audience’s attention;

  • Body language can be described as a form of mental and physical ability of human non-verbal communication consisting of body postures, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals consciously and subconsciously;

  • Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate sincerity, nervousness, aggression, attention, support, or contempt;

  • avoid bad habits that will distract and detract an audience from what is being said. Do not indulge in bad habits when speaking, such as playing with hair or a pen, bouncing up and down on the balls of the feet, continued use of ‘ah’ or ‘ um’ while gathering thoughts, or placing hands into pockets;

  • plan any argument case well ahead of the scheduled meeting. Knowledge of the material will provide added confidence during a debate. It is important to consider that other elected members might have a contrary view and position. Time needs to be devoted to consider what others might be thinking to develop a few main points from their perspective and do research on that;

  • mean what you say. If you have passion, you will be more convincing;

  • adapt to the meeting debate. Be a keen listener. Evaluate what other members are saying. There are many things that could happen during a debate. Members must be alert and involved and able to adapt fast if need be;

  • be aware of the tone used in a debate. Confidence is important, but do not be condescending. Elected members must remain as confident, patient, in control and passionate as possible;

  • be respectful. Rational debate is about the issues and not the person who has spoken. Do not let personalities enter into the debate. Just because a fellow member has opposing viewpoints doesn't mean a loss of respect for the other member. Everyone has different point of views, and it isn't appropriate to denigrate or to be disrespectful to another member because of it; and

  • when given the floor during debate by the presiding member;

    • restate the motion;

    • state your position on the motion, then;

    • make your points by stating your first point and giving evidence of why this point is valid;

    • state your next point and give evidence of why this point is valid;

    • continue on until you have made all your points;

    • quickly summarize all your points; and

    • finish by saying how you want the other members to vote on the motion.

6. KNOW THE OUTCOME THAT YOU SEEK ...


When the council decides to form a view on a specific issue it does so by formally debating and adopting a ‘motion’ that expresses the majority view of the elected members.


To arrive at a decision (resolution), first a ‘motion’ or proposition is placed before council inviting the members to determine their position with regard to the issue. A member may propose a motion for consideration by council or a committee.


The ‘motion’ must be moved and seconded before council can debate the matter. A ‘motion’, once debated and if adopted by the council, becomes a ‘resolution’ of council. The important distinctions are:

  • a ‘motion’ is a proposal to be considered by council at a meeting. It is a request to do something or to express an opinion about something. A motion formally puts the subject of the motion as an item of business before the council.

  • a ‘resolution’ is a motion that has been formally adopted by a majority of elected members at the meeting. While in practice it means the ‘council decision’ the word ‘resolution’ also indicates the process by which the decision was arrived at and made.

It is possible to advise the council of an intention to put forward a motion (notice of motion) that relates to a motion currently before the council. However, the Presiding person cannot accept the new motion before the first one is decided.


If there is no seconder, then there is no debate on the motion and it does not progress (lapses). The meeting moves to the next item of business. At any time there can only be one proposed motion before the meeting.


There are two types of motions:

  • formal motion

A ‘formal motion’ is a proposition that requires or acknowledges action that has to be done or has been done. It can also state a view or a preferred position on a particular issue. A small number of ‘formal motions’ are routinely presented for consideration by a council meeting – for example the confirmation of minutes.


  • procedural motion

Procedural motions are a set of motions that can be employed in specific ways to control the conduct of meetings. They are about meeting procedure and their use can change the course of a meeting. Procedural motions are dealt with in detail in the next chapter.

Drafting a Formal Motion

As a ‘resolution’ is the formal adoption by council of a ‘motion’ accepted and debated by council, it is important to consider the following conventions when preparing a motion. Only motions which are clear, unambiguous and comprehensible should be accepted by the presiding member. For more detailed information, see the Department’s Operational Guideline No 7: ‘Clarity in Council Motions’.


The following recognised conventions apply when drafting a motion:

  • start with the word ‘that’;

  • use the third person and avoid using the first person;

  • clearly indicate the matter, issue or subject of the motion;

  • clearly indicate the intention of the council;

  • the language is clear and unambiguous;

  • the terms are plain and non-technical and can be understood by elected members and the public;

  • constructed simply and if necessary, set out in sections that can be clearly identified by letters or numbers;

  • indicate proposed action or reflect agreed views on a particular issue;

  • clearly indicate who is responsible for any action, and if appropriate, expected time of action and outcome, and reporting back requirements; and

  • it is not a re-introduced motion which has already been rejected and would therefore require specific treatment.

The following example of an adopted resolution has many of the necessary features:


‘That council resolves that the CEO writes to the State Treasurer to seek long-term funding in the upcoming State budget for regional transport infrastructure investment.’

All reports to Council or a Committee will include a draft recommendation. In most cases this will become the motion which will be put to Council for debate. However, a councillor may choose to move a motion other than the Officer’s recommendation.


Once a motion has been formally accepted by the meeting, a member can propose an amendment to the motion. A proposed amendment moved by a member must be seconded by another member.


The proposed amendment:

  • must clearly relate to the motion under consideration; and

  • must be proposed before the debate on the motion has been concluded – that is, it is necessary to propose an amendment before the mover of the motion has exercised their right of reply.The Presiding Member needs to pay particular attention when amendments are requested to maintain the continuity and integrity of the debate. Important points regarding amendments:

  • notice of amendment is not usually required;

  • the amendment is subject to the same requirements as a motion, in that it must be moved and then seconded, before the formal rules of debate are applied;

  • the proposed amendment must be relevant to the motion;

  • an amendment cannot be accepted if it is a direct rebuttal of the motion it seeks to amend;

  • an amendment should not add or detract from the motion so as to render the motion radically different from the originally accepted motion;

  • if an amendment is substantially the same as an earlier rejected amendment on the motion, it should not be accepted;

  • a proposed amendment that is in opposition to an amendment already accepted should not be accepted;

  • in the situation where a number of amendments have been moved and seconded, it is important that they should be considered in due succession, thereby ensuring practicality of the motion;

  • each amendment is separately considered and voted on;

  • if there is a proposition to amend an amendment, subject to the secondary amendment being moved and seconded, it will be dealt with before voting on the principal amendment; and

  • once an amendment has been moved and seconded it cannot be withdrawn without the consent of the meeting.

If the meeting wishes to temporarily set aside the motion so that it may be revived at a later stage a member should move; ‘That the debate be adjourned’.


The details or conditions to be met before resuming the debate on the motion should be expressly stated in the procedural motion – for example, adjourn the debate until a particular council or committee meeting date – or until more information is available.


Important points about ‘That the debate be adjourned’ include:

  • the mover of the adjournment motion may speak to it, however, the seconder does not speak other than to formally second the motion;

  • the presiding member has no discretion to refuse it;

  • it may not be moved by a member who has participated in the debate on the motion;

  • amendments to the motion are permissible, provided that the amendment clarifies the details at the resumption of the debate on the motion;

  • there is no debate and no right of reply to the mover;

  • if carried, it has the effect of temporarily stopping the debate on the motion;

  • the matter can be adjourned to a later part of the meeting;

  • when the debate resumes, it is as if there was no break and therefore members who have already participated in the debate are subject to the normal rules of debate;

  • on resumption of the debate the convention is that the mover of the procedural motion has the first opportunity to speak; and

  • a motion to adjourn the debate can be trumped by a motion to adjourn the meeting.

Moving a procedural motion to adjourn the debate can be very useful when:

  • more information and/or more time is needed to consider the issue and develop other options

  • it is likely that coming events may change the situation

  • a wider range of views beyond the meeting are necessary, or

  • pressure of time dictates bringing forward other urgent business.

7. KNOW HOW TO FOLLOW UP

A decision of council is the result of democratic debate.


The final decision – the resolution of council – is the result of open voting by the majority of elected members at the meeting. Once a collective decision is made, all members must abide by the decision.


Collective responsibility requires members of a council or its committees to support publicly all decisions made by council even if they do not agree privately.


The Act’s principles establish that the primary accountability of a local government is to its community, and that the decisions of the local government must be made with regard to the benefit of the entire local government area.


Accordingly, there are legislative requirements associated with a member’s capacity to participate in decision making (voting) when there is financial interest or conflict arising from an impartiality interest – as explained earlier in this Manual at 7.1 and 7.2.


At the conclusion of the formal debate, the Presiding Member is required to ascertain the view of the meeting by calling for a vote.


Section 5.21 of the Act explains voting and counting requirements, namely:

  • voting to be open and accountable;

  • each member of council or a committee present at the meeting is entitled to one vote;

  • in the case of a tied vote the Presiding Member must cast a second vote; and

  • a decision which is carried by the majority of votes at a meeting of council – at which a quorum is present – is considered to be a lawful decision of council.

Section 5.21(2) of the Act states that any member of a council or a committee with a delegated decision making power, who is present at a meeting, must vote on matters which require a decision at that meeting.


The only exception is when the member has declared a financial interest in accordance with section 5.65 of the Act. If the member does not vote when required to do so, he or she is in breach of the Act (s5.21(5)).


It is advisable for the local government’s CEO to record in the minutes the name of the member who failed to vote on the matter. Such non-voting is considered a serious breach of the Act.


Minutes are the official record of the business and decisions made at the council and committee meetings and, as a legal record, are arguably the most important records of a local government. Under section 5.41(h) of the Act, it is the responsibility of the CEO to ensure that the records and documents of the local government are properly kept.


The minutes do not need to be a verbatim transcript of proceedings and there is no legal requirement to have a full transcript or even a summary of member’s statements, unless it is determined at the meeting that this should occur. Administration regulation 11 sets out what the content of minutes is to include. See also the Department’s ‘Agenda and Minutes Guide’.


The minutes of each meeting need to be:

  • an accurate historical recording of what took place and of the decisions made at the meeting in question;

  • written in a consistent, clear and readable format so that members of the public can see the reasons for the decisions made;

  • made available to the public; and

  • must be stored as a record in an appropriate format and conditions and in compliance with the State Records Act 2000.

Section 5.94(n) (o) and (p) of the Act lists, amongst other items, the agenda and minute related documents, (whether or not current and in the form or medium that they are held by the local government), that must be available free for inspection by members of the public.


This list includes the availability of:

  • confirmed minutes of council or committee meetings;

  • notice papers and agenda relating to any council or committee meeting; and

  • reports and other documents that have been either tabled at, or produced for and presented at, a council or a committee meeting.

Administration regulation 29 provides a list of information that is to be available for public inspection. This includes unconfirmed minutes of council or committee meetings but excludes the meeting or that part of the meeting that was closed to members of the public, or in the CEO’s opinion, could have been closed to members of the public but was not closed.


8. KNOW WHEN TO STRIKE!

The following is an overview to the ORDER OF DEBATE at a Council Meeting:

Attached here is the Guide to Council and Committee Meetings


a-guide-to-council-and-committee-meetingsf4ca79ee07e24c90a8b44158c22c954a
.pdf
Download PDF • 318KB

Attached here is my legal submission to Council Meeting Speech/Petition/Report for you to utilise.

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