Doyle denies running secret service despite keeping council confidential

Jason Dowling, the Age
October 1, 2011

MELBOURNE City Council has become more secretive under lord mayor Robert Doyle, according to a group representing businesses in the city, and this week’s council meeting was open to the public for just 12 minutes.

Don Parsons, secretary of the Melbourne Business Council, said increasing numbers of agenda items for council meetings were being classified ”confidential”, which required the public to leave the meeting.

Tuesday night’s council meeting was public for 12 minutes with 80 per cent of agenda items deemed confidential. At the coming Tuesday council committee meeting, 75 per cent of items have been classified confidential.

”It is something we have been observing for months now, that committee and full council just have more and more confidential [agenda items],” Mr Parsons said.

”Is it they can’t stand scrutiny?”

Cr Doyle rejected the suggestion the council was less transparent than past councils.

He said under former mayor John So, the council often produced two reports, one for the public and a confidential one for the council only.

Cr Doyle said the current system was more transparent because most confidential council agenda items were later released publicly. He said state laws for local councils affected the number of confidential items.

”We are no different from any council in this respect,” he said. ”We are not secretive.”

Victoria’s Local Government Act says a council ”may” deem items confidential and lists eight areas that may be considered for confidentiality – it doesn’t compel councils to make the items confidential.

The chairman of Melbourne City Council’s planning committee Ken Ong said greater effort would be made in the future to reduce the number of confidential items.

Councillor Jackie Watts said she would be working to have fewer items classified confidential and encouraging greater transparency at Melbourne City Council.

Yarra City Council mayor Alison Clarke said it was very unusual for their council to have more than 25 per cent of items judged confidential.

”Our September meeting ran from 7pm to 11.45pm, and only about the last 15 minutes was confidential,” she said.

Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said ”councils should properly explain why a matter will be dealt with in a closed meeting”.

2 thoughts on “Doyle denies running secret service despite keeping council confidential

  1. This is ongoing misuse and abuse of Council procedures. The Council is potentially in breach of the Local Government Act. The rot began to set in when Green’s Councillor Fraser Brindely first referred motions that should be discussed on open council to be decided behind closed doors and then actions by Council offers under the clock of delegation. Thanks to the Greens Melbourne City Counil is no longer an open or democratic institution.

    The Local Government Act requires decision of Council to be made in open public meetings. The City Council is supposed to outline on what basis decision are being made behind closed doors. complaints can and should be made to the Local Government department, the State Parliament and the State Ombudsman

  2. Shame …. Always just promises and the CBD is looking more and more dirty…
    Congratulations bob soon we will notice how Melbourne is turning to big fake City were the department for planning should be sacked. They never delivery anything and they never look after the future( no planning just pretending working to receive a salary – shame – shame).

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