Here at Yarra, we are committed to good governance and transparent decision-making.

We have reviewed our governance rules and are proposing to make some changes aimed at ensuring our governance and decision-making processes are best-practice.

We are seeking community feedback on the proposed changes until Wednesday 6 July 2022.

Got a question? You can ask us a question about the proposed changes to our governance rules and we will answer it publicly below.

About our governance rules

All councils are required to have governance rules in place which set the rules for Council meetings, as well as a number of other governance matters. Yarra City Council’s governance rules were first adopted in August 2020.

Those rules have been in place for all Council meetings since, including online meetings. Online meetings became a necessity during the pandemic and were only made possible through a temporary emergency change to State Government legislation.

Why we need a change

In August 2022, the emergency provision that allows for online meetings will expire, and all councils must change their governance rules to allow for electronic participation in meetings on a permanent basis.

This required change presented a good opportunity to conduct a wider examination of the operation of Council meetings and a review of governance rules to ensure they support best-practice in community-focussed governance.

A Municipal Monitor was appointed in late 2021 to oversee and guide good governance at Yarra and has supported the process of reviewing the governance rules.

How were the proposed changes developed?

The changes have been developed by Councillors and senior Council staff with the support and guidance of Yarra’s Municipal Monitor.

A benchmarking exercise was conducted as part of this proposal to compare Yarra’s governance rules against those of neighbouring councils, to allow Yarra Council and the community to consider best- practice.

The changes that are proposed

Council has developed a series of Directions Papers that set out the proposed changes to 13 matters within the governance rules.

The purpose of these Directions Papers is to provide the community an opportunity to understand each of the proposed changes and provide feedback. Council will consider community feedback prior to making any changes to the governance rules at a Council meeting in August 2022.

At a glance

The proposed changes covered by the Directions Papers relate to the following matters:

Mayoral Election provisions to make clearer the process to be followed where there are two candidates and neither receives and absolute majority and investigate alternative steps.

Urgent Business rules that clarify how items of urgent business can be introduced at Council meetings.

Notices of Motion rule to consider what limitations, if any, should be placed on the matters that can be considered as a Notice of Motion.

Motions and Debate rules to improve the structure of debates and ensure all Councillors have a right to speak, without imposing an obligation on them to do so.

Notices of Rescission provisions to lessen the risks associated with Notices of Rescission, as well as the operational impact of the uncertainty created, while preserving Council’s right to review and reconsider its decisions.

Points of Order process that provide better guidance to Councillors and the mayor about the process for raising a point of order, and the matters on which a point of order can be raised.

Public Question Time rules that place the focus of Public Question Time on enabling questions to be put directly to the Council and receiving a considered response while balancing the need for transparent interrogation of Council with the efficient operation of Council meetings themselves.

Update 23 May 2022 – A question has been raised about the provision in the Directions Paper that a question can be disallowed by the Chair if they believe it “is aimed at embarrassing a Councillor or a member of Council staff”. This is not a new provision, and has featured in Council’s meeting rules since at least 2002. The provision is not designed to prevent questions being asked where the answer might be embarrassing – it is intended to ensure that Council meetings are not used as a forum for the bullying of Councillors and staff. As has been the case for the past 20 years, questions that are posed in good faith will be admitted and will receive a response. While Council is not proposing to change this rule, all community feedback will be considered before a final decision is made – including on this matter.

Public Submission mechanisms that bring provisions relating to public submissions out of the Council Meetings Operations Policy and into the Governance Rules and at the same time ensure the receipt and consideration of public submissions does not undermine Council’s community engagement processes.

Update 23 May 2022 – A question has been raised about the provision in the Directions Paper that a submission from a member of the community can be disallowed by the Chair if they believe it “is aimed at embarrassing a Councillor or a member of Council staff”. This is not a new provision, and has featured in Council’s meeting rules since at least 2002. The provision is not designed to prevent submissions being made that might be embarrassing – it is intended to ensure that Council meetings are not used as a forum for the bullying of Councillors and staff. As has been the case for the past 20 years, submissions that are made in good faith will be heard by the Council. While Council is not proposing to change this rule, all community feedback will be considered before a final decision is made – including on this matter.

Petitions and Joint Letters rules that provide greater guidance in the form and purpose of petitions, and consider how electronic petitions might be treated while giving Council more flexibility in dealing with petitions.

General Business changes to bring provisions relating to General Business out of the Council Meetings Operations Policy and into the Governance Rules and consider whether the current restrictions on General Business are appropriate and clearly understood.

Delegates Reports change to bring provisions relating to Delegates Reports out of the Council Meetings Operations Policy and into the Governance Rules while not diminishing the role of delegates reports as an important connection to Council’s advisory committees.

Electronic Meetings rules that respond to the making of the Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2022 and provide for attendance and participation in Council meetings and delegated committees by electronic means of communication.

Councillor Forums provisions that explore the role of Councillor Briefings, PDC briefings and other meetings conducted under the auspices of Council and provide rules about expectations at those forums.

Submit your feedback

You are invited to provide feedback to the proposed changes to the governance rules before Council considers its final position. Your feedback will need to be received by 5pm on Wednesday 6 July 2022.

You can do this:

Online

By completing the form below.

Email

info@yarracity.vic.gov.au (subject line Governance Rules Review)

Post

Yarra City Council
PO Box 168
Richmond VIC 3121

In person

Arrange a meeting or telephone call with the Governance Rules Project Officer by calling us on 9205 5555.

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