Meetings Matters - Local Government Meetings Processes to Change

Processes for local government meetings will change from 12 October 2020 following the enactment of the Local Government Legislation (Integrity) Amendment Regulation 2020 (“Amendment Regulation”), which modifies the current Council meetings provisions in the Local Government Regulation 2012 (“LGR”).

The Amendment Regulation is part of the State Government’s reforms to local government law that includes the broader changes – including to the councillor conflict of interest provisions – following the enactment of the Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2020.

What are the changes to meeting procedures?

The Amendment Regulation contains a new set of standard requirements for local government meetings.  We have highlighted some of the more significant changes below:

Public Notice 

The Amendment Regulation introduces new requirements about public notice of ordinary meetings, how public notice must be given, and where notices need to be published. 

The new provision requires Council to publish a notice of the days and times of ordinary meetings at least once a year on Council’s website, and keep a notice displayed in a conspicuous place at its public office showing the days and times of meetings (including committee meetings).

Giving notice to councillors

The Amendment Regulation amends how and when notice of meetings and agendas must be given to councillors (and, where applicable, committee members).  The timing provisions are unchanged from what the LGR currently prescribes – that is, notice must be given:

  • at least 4 days before the day of the meeting, for an indigenous regional council;
  • at least 2 days before the day of the meeting, for all other local governments.

However, the new provision makes an important clarifying amendment that puts it beyond doubt that whilst the timeframes do not apply if it is impracticable to give the notice before that time, the notice itself must still be given at some point.

Making agendas publicly available

A new provision prescribes when agendas must be made publicly available.  This new provision requires Council to make agendas publicly available by 5pm on the next business day after notice of the meeting is given to councillors.  

Council must also make any related reports publicly available at this time (if they have been made available to Councillors), or otherwise make related reports available as soon as practicable after they have been made available to councillors.

Minutes

The Amendment Regulation requires minutes of local government meetings to include relevant reports for the meeting (except to the extent the report contains confidential information, or if the report was made publicly available with the agenda).

Closed meetings

The Amendment Regulation changes the circumstances in which Council can close a meeting of the local government.  The following reasons, currently set out in the LGR, are unchanged:

  • the appointment, discipline or dismissal of the Chief Executive Officer;
  • industrial matters affecting employees;
  • the local government’s budget;
  • rating concessions.

However, the following reasons currently in the LGR will no longer be bases upon which a Council can resolve to close a local government meeting once the Amendment Regulation comes into effect:

  • contracts proposed to be made by it; or
  • starting or defending legal proceedings involving the local government; or
  • any action to be taken by the local government under the Planning Act 2016, including deciding applications made to it under that Act; or
  • other business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else, or enable a person to gain a financial advantage.

The following new reasons have been included in the Amendment Regulation as bases upon which a Council can resolve to close a local government meeting.  There are broad similarities between some of these new reasons and some of the reasons that will be omitted from the Amendment Regulation, as well as a broadening of the reasons in some respects:

  • legal advice obtained by the local government or legal proceedings involving the local government including, for example, legal proceedings that may be taken by or against the local government;
  • matters that may directly affect the health and safety of an individual or a group of individuals;
  • negotiations relating to a commercial matter involving the local government for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government;
  • negotiations relating to the taking of land by the local government under the Acquisition of Land Act 1967;
  • a matter the local government is required to keep confidential under a law of, or formal arrangement with, the Commonwealth or a State.

The notable omission from the LGR that has not received a corresponding replacement in the Amendment Regulation is the ability for a Council to resolve to close a local government meeting when discussing any action to be taken by the local government under the Planning Act 2016, including deciding applications made to it under that Act.  In some circumstances the legal advice/ proceedings basis might apply, but not in all cases.

There is also a new requirement to disclose an overview of what is to be discussed in the closed session (rather than simply “stating the nature of the matters to be considered”, which is the wording currently used in the LGR).

The Amendment Regulation also introduces other changes that are responsive to provisions of the Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2020, including about matters relating to councillor advisors.

We are here to help 

We regularly assist Councils across Queensland with local government advisory and compliance matters. 

If you have any queries about the changes introduced by the Amendment Regulation, or the Belcarra reforms more broadly, and how they apply to our Council, please contact our Local Government Team.

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