Chamber questions?

Chamber questions?

Allowing the public to ask questions in the council chamber will be discussed at City Council’s monthly meeting being held today.

Cr Kate Amoroso submitted a question with notice requesting information about how council could add a section in its agenda that allows members of the community to ask questions in the Chamber.

She has also requested examples of how other councils do this in terms of the process for asking such questions.

Chief Executive Sarah Philpott provided a response stating council may consider whether to add a section in to its meeting procedures to accommodate members of the community asking questions in the chamber.

This would be in addition to the deputation process which is already available to the public.

“Council could attend to this in those meeting procedures or by way of separate policy,” Ms Philpott said.

Ms Philpott said council is currently underway with a process to review its discretionary meeting procedures.

“In line with a number of recent workshops, and Council reports, this matter could be referred to those discussions rather than being dealt with as a stand-alone matter,” she said.

“In doing so, council would turn its mind to the Guiding Principles in Regulation 4 which deal with openness and transparency, encouraging appropriate community participation in the affairs of council, reflecting appropriate levels of formality appropriate to the responsibilities to be exercised at a meeting and be sufficiently certain to give community and decision makers confidence in deliberations at the meeting.”

Some South Australian councils have already adopted a public question time procedure as part of its monthly meetings.

“In terms of the approach of other councils, that does vary,” Ms Philpott said.

“In our research, to date, some councils have a specific time limit, ranging from 10 minutes to 30 minutes on the agenda.

“Questions are frequently required to be provided in advance of the meeting to the council.

“A determination may be made to accept or reject the question with either the presiding member or CEO being provided with the absolute discretion to do so.

“Maximum questions per person may apply, such as one or two per meeting.

“Matters raised are generally recorded in the minutes, however if insufficient time has been allowed for a more comprehensive response, responses may be provided later, either via minutes or at the next meeting.

“Procedures may include that no debate is to be entered into on the question or answers.

“There are generally documented procedures that apply to address underlying behavioural expectations, including not personalising questions, not criticising individual staff or council members, avoiding defamatory remarks and vexatious questions, being respectful and not causing a disturbance at the meeting.

“It would be essential for council to consider these and other issues if it chose to proceed with public questions from the gallery so as to ensure the presiding member can still manage the meeting effectively and with the level of formality outlined under the Guiding Principles in the Regulations.”

Salisbury City Council, Whyalla City Council and Campbelltown City Council have adopted public question time procedure at the start of ordinary meetings.

Councils are able to set and adopt its own guidelines.

Salisbury council set aside 30 minutes, while Whyalla and Campbelltown councils allocate 15 minutes.

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