Ipswich City Council has passed what Interim Administrator Greg Chemello describes as “the last part of the councillor governance and integrity package for the city of Ipswich” ahead of the return of elected representatives at March 2020 local government elections.
Mr Chemello said he had worked closely with CEO David Farmer, the Interim Management Committee and council’s leadership team to complete the policy and structural reform work needed to ensure appropriate councillor conduct and integrity once elected representatives are in place next year.
Council has adopted the Meeting Conduct Policy, which is required under the Local Government Act 2009, and the Public Participation at Council Ordinary Meetings Policy, plus a minor amendment to the Meeting Procedures Policy.
“These policies finalise the city’s Councillor Integrity Policy Package,” Mr Chemello said.
“This Meeting Conduct Policy has been prepared in accordance with the state’s model procedures for how the chairperson of a local government meeting may deal with a councillor’s unsuitable meeting conduct and how any suspected inappropriate conduct of a councillor, referred to the local government by the assessor, must be dealt with at a local government meeting.
“General conduct during meetings together with conflicts of interest and material personal interests are also covered under this policy.
“We also identified that public participation at council’s ordinary meetings would also be valuable for residents and ratepayers to provide an avenue to present views and issues of a strategic nature, directly to councillors, in a public forum.”
Under conduct during meetings, councillors must refrain from taking mobile calls or texting, must not interrupt other councillors who are speaking unless it is a point of order, only make relevant comments during discussion, address other councillors and staff appropriately, and must remain seated and silent when votes are taken.
In future, councillors can be directed to cease the “unsuitable meeting conduct”, apologise, withdraw the comments, and in the worst case scenario be reprimanded and forced to leave the meeting. The matter can also be referred to Local Government Independent Assessor for investigation and further censure.
As part of council’s ongoing commitment to transparency and community engagement, a public participation session will be available during each monthly council meeting.
“The purpose of this is to allow members of the community to raise issues relating to council’s strategies and policies. Specifically, matters raised must relate to council’s strategies, functions, policies, budget and/or resources allocated towards achievement of … the Advance Ipswich community plan, or querying whether there are different/new strategies that should be pursued by council,” he said.
Mr Chemello added that it was not a forum to raise detailed council operational or site-specific concerns, as there were other avenues in council to do that.
“For councillor conduct, this effectively completes the policy and governance reform work we commenced back in August 2018. Ipswich City Council now has the most contemporary and comprehensive councillor governance and integrity package in Queensland.
“It will be up the newly elected mayor and councillors next year to live up to the reasonable and genuine wishes of the Ipswich communities to govern this city effectively, fairly and transparently. This councillor governance and integrity package is the platform they need to succeed. I wish them well.”