Wodonga councillors back mayor's move to open briefings to the public

Opening up: Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie has driven a plan to have councillor briefings made public forums with councillors voting 6-1 for her idea.
Opening up: Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie has driven a plan to have councillor briefings made public forums with councillors voting 6-1 for her idea.

WODONGA councillor briefings will be open to the public from August under a resolution adopted this week.

The move by mayor Anna Speedie won overwhelming support with former city leader John Watson the only councillor to vote against it.

“I know sure as hell state and federal areas, they don’t allow you to go into Cabinet where they’re making policy,” Cr Watson said.

“I’ve had a couple of people come to me in the community and say they would be very hesitant to do a lot of business with the City of Wodonga if (briefings became public).

“I know it would be closed (at times), but it’s that process we need to have that ease of community coming to us with business.”

Under Cr Speedie’s plan, matters deemed confidential under the Local Government Act would see a briefing closed to the public for that item.

Cr Speedie said she was motivated by transparency and erasing the perception that council was secretive.

“The reason why I’m putting this is to absolutely wipe off the table the notion that there is things going on behind closed doors,” Cr Speedie said.

“I hope, once and for all, this gets rid of that misused word (transparency) and certainly will put each and everyone of us on notice to make sure that you have read every report before you come to a briefing session and to be able to have appropriate and robust discussion.”

Cr Libby Hall told Monday’s council meeting she fully endorsed the move with a rider.

“Transparency is just not about briefings though, it is also about the information provided to councillors, I must emphasise that,” Cr Hall said.

“We can only make decisions based on the information provided and we have good faith in council officers to provide this.”

Cr Tim Quilty had wanted briefings made public since his election in 2016 and thought his ambition would be thwarted after fellow councillors showed “no appetite” for it.

A report outlining a policy for public councillor briefings will go to the July council meeting with the new approach being put into practice the following month.