‘Backward step’ for SJ meetings

‘Backward step’ for SJ meetings

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The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale will reduce its ordinary council meetings from two a month to just one following a decision at last week’s meeting.

Council meetings were held every second and fourth Monday of the month but at the ordinary council meeting on April 26 councillor Barry Urban proposed this be reduced to ‘streamline the process’.

He said there had also been a problem with councillors not always being able to attend question and answer sessions on Tuesdays and reducing the amount of meetings would help address this.

Councillor Keith Ellis spoke against the motion and said it would restrict the public’s ability to speak at council meetings.

He found it extraordinary that councillors who spoke against restrictions to question time in June last year were now in support of reducing the number of council meetings.

The restrictions introduced last year included a requirement that questions be submitted to the council in writing by 2pm the day of the meeting.

The changes also allowed the presiding member to rule questions out of order if they were found to relate to matters outside the function of council, defamatory, irrelevant or offensive.

At the time councillor Michelle Rich, who had not yet been elected to council, spoke against the move and compared councillors to Adolf Hitler.

Last week Ms Rich spoke in favour of the reduction in meetings and said she didn’t see it as limiting the public’s ability to have a say.

“Agendas are small at the moment and quite often we don’t achieve that much at the meetings we have,” she said.

She said fortnightly meetings also made it difficult for councillors to attend community events throughout the week.

Councillor Dave Gossage also spoke in favour of the move because he agreed it would streamline council processes and would give staff more time to consult and prepare more detailed reports.

President John Erren spoke against the motion because it was not in line with neighbouring local governments and could double the amount of time it took to get an item before council.

“We know the commitment when we sign up,” he said.
Councillor Sandra Hawkins also spoke against the item and said it was a step backwards.

She said having fewer meetings would also force more people into the often already full public gallery at once.

The council voted to adopt the change with five in favour and three against.
Councillors Ellis, Erren and Hawkins voted against the changes, while councillors Urban, Rich, Gossage, David Atwell and Sam Piipponen voted in favour.

The changes will come into effect on June 27 with this month’s meetings to be held on May 9 and 23 as advertised.