October 14, 2020
A decision to scrap closed-door portfolio meetings in favour of livestreamed standing committees will usher in a new era of transparency at the South Burnett Regional Council.
At Wednesday’s monthly meeting, Councillors voted to scrap weekly portfolio meetings in favour of the standing committee model.
Three new committees will cover the areas of Infrastructure, Executive and Community Services, and Finance and Corporate Matters.
All Councillors will be members of each committee, with Mayor Brett Otto acting as chairman, or if he is absent, Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones.
Decisions made by each standing committee will then be passed on to the Council’s next monthly general meeting for ratification.
CEO Mark Pitt said standing committees were preferable to general meetings for several reasons.
One was that they are public – unlike portfolio meetings which have been held since the portfolio system was introduced in 2012 – and another was that discussions would be more free-flowing.
Mr Pitt said at monthly general meetings, motions were tabled and seconded, and then Councillors could speak for or against them.
Standing committees, by contrast, were less bound by the formal rules that surrounded general meetings.
Mr Pitt believed this informality would allow Councillors to exchange ideas and opinions more freely.
And as the standing committee meetings would be open to the public and livestreamed, they might help give residents a better idea of how and why decisions were arrived at.
Only confidential matters as outlined in Section 275 of the Local Government Regulation 2012 would be held in camera, the same as they are at general meetings.
Mayor Brett Otto told southburnett.com.au the change was partly motivated by the most recent Belcarra reforms.
While the latest tranche of reforms didn’t mandate standing committees, he said the thrust of Belcarra was to promote ethical, accountable and transparent decision-making in local government in the interests of good governance.
This was something he supported.
A similar committee system operates at Toowoomba Regional Council.
The SBRC’s new standing committee system will be run on a trial basis from November 1 to December 31, with one standing committee meeting held each Wednesday and the Council’s monthly general meeting ratifying each committee’s decisions on the fourth Wednesday.
After this trial, the SBRC will adopt a formal schedule of dates, times and locations for future meetings.