Gympie Regional Council votes to be more transparent

VOTERS and ratepayers will be able to see exactly how each councillor votes on every issue before Gympie Regional Council after the standing orders were changed this week to make the council more open and accountable.

Until now there has been no official record of how each of the nine council members (eight councillors and mayor) vote on the many issues they must decide on each month, except when a "division" is called.

Issues of openness and accountability have persisted around the Gympie council for many years, and Mayor Mick Curran said on Wednesday recording the vote of each councillor on each agenda item would go some way to addressing that.

"It makes (council) decisions - and councillors' decisions - more open and transparent," he said.

"This is not in any way intended to stifle good open debate; in fact, that is to be encouraged.

"I think (the people in) every division are entitled to know how their representative on this council is voting. That makes us more open and transparent."

Last financial year there were more than 4500 unique visits to the minutes section of the council website.

This showed the public was interested in what goes on in council meetings, corporate governance manager Brian Hayes said this week.

"At the request of the Mayor, s23.7 and s47.4 have been included as a proposed key change to the way in which votes are to be taken and recorded in the minutes," Mr Hayes said.

"In line with the local government principle of transparent and effective decision making in the public interest, a number of councils are now recording how each councillor voted on every matter in the minutes of the meeting.

"Moreton Bay Regional Council, Bundaberg Regional Council and Sunshine Coast Council are among Queensland councils presently reporting how each councillor voted on every matter before council.

"These councils record votes slightly differently within their minutes eg some use the term 'carried unanimously' rather than listing all the councillors who voted in favour of a motion. Where a matter was not carried unanimously, some councils are listing only the councillors who voted against the motion, while others list how all councillors voted for and against for every matter as if a division had been called."

Under the new standing orders any councillor can still technically call for a division, but it would be "superfluous" and if they did it too often they could be reprimanded for "inappropriate conduct".

"I think this is a good way to go," Cr Rae Gate said.

"A lot of people can't get here to these meetings because they have jobs but they have an interest in council. For us to record our vote in this way I think is a good move.

Cr Mark McDonald said he was "heartened by the number of people who read our minutes".

Gympie Times


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