Councillors attempt to lift the veil

In the post-Robert Doyle era, city councillors are attempting to make the City of Melbourne less secretive and more transparent.

At the June 5 Future Melbourne Committee, they unanimously resolved to bring consideration of “discretionary grants” into the public arena.

The mover of the motion, Cr Arron Wood, said many of these grants were already discussed in open council, but the motion would make this the “default setting”.

Cr Wood said: “With our discretionary funding and our grant applications, we’ve been doing that in open session in recent times.  By bringing it out of confidential, this will make it the default setting.  I just note that it says ‘unless doing so is not appropriate’.  So there would be certain instances where it would not be appropriate to do that in open session.”

The other part of Cr Wood’s motion instructed officers to install cameras to allow live-streaming of meetings.

“What we’ll probably see in this Future Melbourne Committee room is three locked-off cameras, so it won’t require an operator, per se, to be here,” he said.

Cr Cathy Oke said: I think it’s incredibly important and long overdue.”

Cr Rohan Leppert said he didn’t want councillors self-consciously avoiding making the difficult decisions.  He warned that if councillors avoided the difficult decisions, they would be made elsewhere – a reference to delegating decisions to officers.

As reported by CBD News in our February edition, the City of Melbourne is the most secretive of all metropolitan councils ­– making 28.85 per cent of its decisions behind closed doors in 2016/17.

Cr Leppert said: “I’m loving how easy this is and I congratulate the mover for putting this forward.  This is what some of us pushed for five years ago, but it is fantastic that we are going to do this now.”

Councillors have resolved to introduce more transparency measures in the future.

The successful motion was: “That the Future Melbourne Committee recommends Council:

1. Requests management submit reports dealing with organisations making grant applications or applications for discretionary funding in the open sessions of Future Melbourne Committee and Council meetings to provide an increased level of transparency, unless doing so is deemed not appropriate.

2. Requests officers to commence the process of sourcing and installing live streaming capability for Future Melbourne Committee Meetings in the Council Meeting Room and agrees to provide funding in current and future budgets to cover the cost of operating the cameras.”

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