Decisions by Proxy: Councillor Forums under review for non compliance of s89 of the ACT

A complaint has been forward to the Victorian Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate requesting that the State Government investigate the management and administration of the City of Melbourne Councillor Forums and its compliance with section 89 of the Victorian Local Government Act 1989 (The Act)

Section 89 of the Local Government Act provides for the public right to attend all council meetings with the exception when matters of confidentiality are discussed. 

The City of Melbourne considers a number of issues that effect Council policy and its administration at the Council Forums which are held in closed session. 

On November 27, 2012 the City of Melbourne held a Councillor Forum in which a number of issues of Council policy and administration were discussed.  This meeting was closed to the public and its agenda and reports were not published.

Decision by Proxy

The City of Melbourne falsely claim that because “they do not make decisions” at the Councillor Forums they do not fall under the provisions of section 89 of the Act. The Council administration acts under delegations on the recommendations and discussions arising at the Councillors’ forum.  This is akin to decisions by proxy.

The City of Melbourne publishes a record of the meeting,  pursuant to the Local Government regulations, weeks after the event. However the agenda of the Councillor Forums are not published prior to the meetings and members of the public are denied access to detailed information, reports or input into the deliberations and discussions of the Councillors.  Members of the pubic wishing to gain access to information and reports presented at the Councillor forums  need to make an application under the provisions an FOI legislation which is a further abuse of process.

Denial of natural justice.  

Many of the issues raised and discussed in closed session at Councillor Forums effect public policy and as they are not open to the public deny members of the public the right to observe, monitor  and/or provide input into the decisions of Council.  Detailed reports. minutes and discussion papers presented to at the Councillor Forums  are not published or made available to the public via the Council Web site.

One member of the public said “they had requested copies of the reports being presented to Council but were denied access“.  The Council Officer concerned said “that this is not the way we do business“. Matters under consideration are no longer discussed in open public forums but are decided behind closed doors.

The newly elected Council has failed to act or question the legality of the Councils actions.

Record of Delegated Authority

There is no public record or registry of decisions made under delegation.

It is difficult or impossible to determine under what authority the administration has in setting public policy or matters contained under Council Local Laws

Avoidance of compliance

The conduct of the City of Melbourne Councillor is a deliberate attempt to avoid the provisions of section 89 of the Act and to deny members of the public the right to attend and observe Council meetings.

Public Confidence

This seriously undermines public confidence in the administration of the Council and could lead to corruption as a result of the lack of transparency and accountability