BINDING decisions would no longer be made at private forums, under a plan to bring “genuine transparency” to Wodonga Council.
Alliance for Change election candidates have committed to four measures they would apply to tackle council “secrecy”.
They include no binding decisions occurring at councillor briefing sessions and genuine debate on agenda items at monthly public council meetings.
They would also alter protocols so councillors could be contacted by the media on matters of public interest and no longer withhold contentious reports from being added late to council agendas.
The Alliance said if a majority of its seven members were elected the changes would occur, but they have also vowed to pursue them if they were in a minority.
“It’s what we believe in and it’s what we want to bring in,” member Ben Clifton said.
“We want the council to engage and not dictate.
“Everything we say or debate as a council we should be able to say in front of constituents.”
Fellow member Chris Rogers said the measures would bring “genuine transparency” and foster greater community faith in the council’s decision-making.
Alliance member and Border Mail journalist David Johnston said ratepayers were “being treated with contempt with the present media protocols”.
“The council's secret society approach to media dealings is putting a handbrake on the information they receive,” Johnston said.
Member and town planner Ron Mildren believes that under local government rules there is a chance for the Alliance goals to be achieved by changing Wodonga’s councillor code of conduct.
“Within the first four months there’s an opportunity for council to review a code and that’s what we propose to do,” Mr Mildren said.
“There are certain things that must be in the code, things that may be in the code and things that must not be in the code.”
The Wodonga code states on communication it requires councillors to “comply with the council’s Media Directive and respect the functions of the Mayor and CEO to be the spokespersons for the council in accordance with our policy”.
In relation to decision-making the code states it “should be transparent”.
“Councillors should debate matters when they come before council at the formal council meeting, notwithstanding that discussion may have occurred at a councillor briefing session,” it states referring to the closed door meetings that worry the Alliance.
Alliance members also said they may review the process for citizens’ questions at council meetings.