Move to limit public questions at City of Melville council meetings

The City of Melville is considering an update of its Legal Representation Policy.
The City of Melville is considering an update of its Legal Representation Policy.

RATEPAYERS could be limited to two queries each at council meetings, in a move by the City of Melville to ensure public question time is “effective and equitable”.

Melville councillors will on February 20 consider adopting a fresh public question time policy, sparked last August when councillors asked for a review of the process.

Under the new policy, ratepayers will be limited to two queries, while questions with multiple parts will be considered as individual queries.

If there is still time within the allotted 15 minutes assigned to public question time, a period that can be extended, residents should have the opportunity to return to the microphone.

“If there are questions remaining unasked at the expiration of the time allotted, the public will be asked to submit those questions in writing to the chief executive who will provide a written reply,” the draft policy reads.

Questions submitted in writing by people who fail to attend will not be read out but responded to in writing by the City.

Public question time has been a topic of discussion in recent months.

A report in December highlighting the resources spent by the City responding to public questions was sent to the State Government to consider as part of its Local Government Act review.

At the time, chief executive Shayne Silcox argued the number and nature of queries was “having an impact on the organisation”.

“It would seem to me many of (the questions put to the City) are to entrap certain people on council,” he said.

“What I’m saying is that there will be budget impacts moving forward if this is not addressed or there will be impacts on the health and wellbeing of my staff.”

At an agenda briefing Tuesday night, Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association spokesman Mark McLerie said electors “received responses, but not answers” to questions.

“I think it is really important that councillors make the most of this opportunity to re-set the dial of question time by making sure this policy fulfils the expectations of the community and that anything at all in this policy that inhibits people asking questions of their councillors in a formal environment should be removed,” he said.

“(Public question time) is one of the few mechanism electors have to actually understand what is going on.”

He also urged councillors to consider live streaming meetings, as was asked for at December’s AGM.

 

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