City of Whittlesea residents are now able to ask questions of administrators at council meetings after its governance rules were amended last week.
The amended governance rules include a new section relating to public question time, which will run for 30 minutes at the end of each scheduled council meeting.
People will be given two minutes each to ask their questions, and up to five minutes will be allocated for response.
Questions must be written in English, no more than 200 words for each question, and submitted to council up to three hours prior to the meetings.
Questions must also include the name and contact details of the person asking the question, and any organisation they represent. Assistance will be available to any community member seeking support in writing their question.
Each person may submit up to two questions for each meeting, and priority will be given to questions relating to matters listed in the agenda.
Questions may be read out by a council delegate if the person who wrote the question is unable to attend, and council must provide a written response to each question within 14 days of the meeting.
The amendments come after six months of review of the latest governance rules document, which has been in operation since September 1, 2020.
At the April council meeting, executive manager of governance Frank Joyce explained the amendments bring the rules to be ‘more in line with’ the council’s new community engagement policy.
“Currently, the public question time and participation in joint letters, there’s no capacity to actually speak to those in council meetings, so this is a way of improving community engagement and civic participation going forward,” he said.
Council chair administrator Lydia Wilson said it was an important step towards more community engagement.
“In relation to public question time, petitions and so forth, there will, for the first time, be the opportunity for community members to be able to present in their own right, and I think that is a really important introduction in our new governance rules, and also for a assistance to be provided to anyone who needs that support either in writing their question or presenting to council,” she said.
A draft copy of the new governance rules can be viewed on the April 6, 2021 council meeting agenda at cam.whittlesea.vic.gov.au.