WELLINGTON Shire Council has decided to stay with its twice monthly council meeting schedule, after debating the subject for almost an hour.
At Tuesday’s council meeting a bare majority of councillors supported Cr Darren McCubbin’s motion to retain the twice monthly council meetings, at 1pm on the first Tuesday of the month and a 6pm meeting on the third Tuesday of the month.
The decision to stay with the status quo followed a series of workshops and an outline of advantages of three suggested schedules.
Schedule A involved retaining the current arrangements, schedule B having two briefing committee meetings a month and one council meeting and schedule C having one meeting and one briefing committee meeting a month.
During almost an hour of convoluted debate, Cr McCubbin proposed council accept the schedule of council meetings from schedule A, removing consideration of the briefing committee meetings from the initial debate, arguing they could be held on an “as needs” basis in busier times of the year and less often when not needed.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
Cr McCubbin described the debate as being about the true good of the Wellington Shire, not about the convenience of councillors or council officers, but about the improvement of the lot of ratepayers throughout the municipality.
“I am very conscious that we need to make more efficient council meeting times and … have taken briefings out of that and certainly I am very open about a discussion of briefing times.
“I say to councillors don’t be seduced by suggesting the answer to a more efficient council day is to reduce the number of council meetings from two to one a month, reducing (the number of meetings) will not add any benefits,” he argued.
Cr McCubbin suggested the council could abandon its one hour lunch breaks to save up to four hours a month, and suggested the time saved by having only one council meeting a month would be insignificant.
He said meetings were council’s most efficient way of doing business, providing councillors with the opportunity to debate and speak to issues, before making decisions.
” … we have discussed this issue till it’s coming out of our ears frankly, but it’s only today, in a meeting, that we are actually going to get a resolution, so in other words meetings actually save time.”
“And don’t believe that by having only one meeting a month you are saving time because I am going to tell you the elves around here will find some things for us to do with those other times,” he said.
Cr Peter Cleary opposed the motion, foreshadowing his intention to propose the adoption of schedule B.
He argued the current diversity and efficiency of communication options reduced the need for face-to-face meetings.
” … we have mobile phones, text messaging, emails; we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, any time.
“We are well informed within minutes of what is going on.”
Cr Cleary agreed people should be encouraged to attend council meetings, but suggested there needed to be limits to the amount of time spent in meetings.
“One council meeting at the end of the month, I think, would adequately cover the needs and requirements, and, as has been said before, the cycle for the council officers is based on our meetings,” he said.
Cr Cleary suggested that with one meeting a month the council officers would prepare everything to fit into that meeting.
Supporting the retention of the current system, Cr Malcolm Hole pointed out the dangers posed to those driving home from late night meetings on foggy and kangaroo-infested roads.
The ability of school students to visit council and witness local government in action during the current daytime meetings was also highlighted by Cr Hole, while Cr Emilie Davine argued for one evening meeting a month, suggesting it would halve costs and encourage more mothers and women in full-time employment to become involved in council.
When the motion was finally put to the vote Crs McCubbin, Hole, McIvor, Wenger and Duncan supported, while Crs Cleary, Rossetti, Davine and Crossley opposed.
More debate was required to resolve the adoption of the schedule A council briefing committee meetings, with a procedural motion from Cr Hole to workshop the issue voted down, before the existing arrangements were unanimously supported.