The following information has been prepared to assist residents and other interested persons gain a better understanding about formal Council meetings.
Local Government is the 'third arm' of government in Australia, alongside the state and federal governments. It is the most accessible level of government for the average citizen.
The City of Whitehorse is one of 79 municipalities in Victoria, which range from big metropolitan cities to small country shires. The City of Whitehorse, or Council, like the State and Federal Governments, has a 'legislature' made up of elected representatives (Councillors). Councillors are concerned citizens who have offered themselves for election as representatives of the residents of the City's electoral wards. They receive no salary, just an annual allowance.
The Council employs specialist officers to administer its affairs and provide its services. The Council's administration is headed by its Chief Executive Officer.
Whitehorse Council conducts both a Special Committee Meeting and a Council Meeting once every four weeks. Members of the public are welcome at these meetings but to the uninitiated a Council Meeting may be a confusing event.
The Council acts like the Board of Directors of a company, determining policies and initiatives and completing the business of the municipal organisation.
At a Council Meeting, Councillors debate issues, make decisions, approve proposals, fulfil the statutory requirements of the Council, approve its budget and plan for the future.
A reference copy of the Council meeting agenda may be viewed at all Council Services Centres and libraries on the Friday afternoon prior to the meeting.
A copy of meeting agendas is also easily accessible from the Council website.
The Mayor is the Chairperson at the meeting. The procedure of Council Meetings is laid down by a local law and an agenda, which lists the order of business for the meetings taken.
The meeting begins at 7pm with the reading of an opening prayer, followed by an acknowledgement of the Wurundjeri people as the traditional owners of the land. Minutes of the previous meeting are confirmed, and Councillors disclose if they have a conflict of interest in any item on the agenda.
By law, Councillors must identify matters where a conflict of interest exists.
Officer's reports cover issues in the officer's area of responsibility and make recommendations that require a Council decision or policy direction. The Council may resolve to adopt, change or reject the officer's recommendation, or just note the report, which means no action will be taken.
A proposal being put to the Council is called a motion, and must be moved and seconded by two Councillors. If another Councillor wishes to change the motion, he or she may move an amendment to it. This may also be amended, and so on. If an amendment is defeated, another may be moved. When the debate is finished, the amendment is voted on, and if it is carried, it becomes part of the motion, which is then voted on.
At any time during the debate a Councillor may foreshadow a motion to inform the Council of an intention to move a motion at a later stage in the meeting. A foreshadowed motion will have precedence over any subsequent motion.
During the debate, a Councillor may call a point of order. This is an objection raised on the grounds that a suggested action is not in accordance with proper procedure. The Mayor will rule on this and the Mayor's decision is final.
After a vote has been taken, a Councillor may call for a division whereby every Councillor must indicate whether they voted for or against the matter. This division is recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
The Council and its committee meetings are open to the public but the Local Government Act states that certain types of business may be discussed and decisions made in camera (a closed meeting). These are matters relating to property sales or purchases, legal issues, staff matters, the personal affairs of individual ratepayers, or any other matter that may prejudice the Council or another person. These are usually conducted at the end of the agenda when Council resolves to close the meeting and go into camera. The public will be asked to leave at that time and the doors closed.
The Special Committee of Council comprises all 10 elected Councillors. It has specific delegated powers and decisions made by the Committee are binding on the Council.
Members of the public can make a submission to Council's Special Committee Meeting. For further information on how to make a submission, visit the Public Submissions page or phone 9262 6337.
Any resident has the right to approach a Councillor to raise matters on their behalf.
Requests for action or statements of opinion about community matters concerning the Council should be directed to the Council in writing (addressed to the Chief Executive Officer). Residents may also make their views known by speaking to the Chief Executive Officer or other senior officer.
Residents may formally petition the Council for certain action to be taken. Petitions must be addressed to the Mayor and Councillors and are usually considered at the meeting following the one at which they are tabled. There is a set format that a petition must follow, as distinct from a joint letter from two or more people. For more information, visit the Petition to Council page.
379-397 Whitehorse Road, Nunawading, Victoria 3131Australia
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