How Council makes decisions

How Council makes decisions

Council is empowered by law to make decisions on many matters of importance to our local community providing the decision is within the City of Casey’s jurisdictional authority.

Decisions are made in formal Council meetings, or under delegated authority of the Council. Neither the mayor nor the councillors have the legal authority to individually act or make decisions on behalf of the council.

Councillors can make a formal decision at a council meeting to delegate certain decision-making powers to Council staff or special committees of council. Because delegates are making decisions ‘as the council’, they are subject to strict controls and accountability.

Council can change or revoke a delegation at any time. All delegations to staff must be reviewed by Council within 12 months following Council’s general election. The council keeps a register of all delegations and these can also be inspected by the public upon written request.

 

Council Meetings

How can I attend a Council meeting?

How are Council meetings governed?

Council staff as delegated decision makers

Committees

Community consultations

Councillors and the community


Council Meetings

Council decisions are made by a majority of the Councillors present at the meeting voting in favour, providing a quorum is present. If there is a tied vote the mayor, who chairs Council meetings, has a second casting vote.

All councillors present at a council meeting may vote on every motion unless they have a declared conflict of interest, for example, a Councillor may be an employee of a company being awarded a contract.

There are different types of council meetings. They are:

  • Ordinary meetings
  • Special meetings

Before each meeting City of Casey staff prepare a meeting agenda. This lists the items the council intends to consider at the meeting. It usually also contains Council officers’ reports and recommendations on these matters. Councillors use these reports as a source of information and advice to assist their decision making.

We publish Council meeting agendas on our website. Agendas are also available in our local libraries and our Customer Service offices or you can access a copy at each council meeting.

After each council meeting, minutes are prepared. This is the official record of the decisions made by the council. The minutes of each council meeting, which include relevant reports or summaries of these reports, are available for public viewing for 12 months following each meeting.

Our Council meeting minutes are also published in the same manner as the meeting Agendas.

You can also stay up to date with upcoming council business by visiting http://www.casey.vic.gov.au/council/your-council/minutes-agendas/upcoming-council-business


How can I attend a Council Meeting?

Attending council meetings can be a good way to understand how councils make decisions. Casey’s Council meetings are Livestreamed on Facebook and City of Casey’s YouTube channel. Make sure you like the City of Casey’s Facebook Page and subscribe to the City of Casey’s YouTube channel for regular updates.

You are able to attend a Council meeting as a member of the public. All Council meetings are required to be open to the public, with the exception of when the council decides to close the meeting to the public in certain circumstances for example Council may need to discuss legal advice or other matters defined by the Act.

While Council meetings are an opportunity to observe the Council at work, they are not the place for members of the public to address councillors.

As a member of the public you can submit your questions prior to 10.00 am on the business day prior to the Ordinary Council Meeting. You will need to be present in the public gallery in order for your question to be read.

Question time is at the start of the meeting. All questions and responses will be printed in the Council Minutes inclusive of the name, suburb and post code of the submitter.


How are Council meetings governed?

The Local Government Act lays down the lawful requirements of Council meetings. These include public access to meetings, Councillor voting and the need to keep minutes of meetings.

The Act also requires that the Council have a Local Law to govern the conduct of its Council meetings and special committee meetings. Where the Act makes no provision for a particular matter, the conduct of a council meeting is at the discretion of the Council.

These rules also apply to the conduct of a meeting of a special committee of Council.

A meeting procedure local law describes how a particular council intends to govern the conduct of its meetings – including the processes and standards that it intends to apply.


Council staff as delegated decision makers

In some cases delegating specific powers, duties or functions to staff members can speed up the Council decisions and ensure that Council meetings are not tied down by procedural and everyday administrative decisions. It also enables us to use the technical knowledge, training and experience of staff members to support their decisions.

Decisions to delegate specific powers to staff or special committees are made at a formal Council meeting and specify what the delegate is empowered to do. They are required to observe the strategies, policies and guidelines adopted by the City of Casey and may be required to report periodically to the Council on decisions made.

The Council often delegates to staff such as the Chief Executive Officer, environmental health officers, fire prevention officers and local laws and planning officers. Council staff members are required to act impartially, with integrity and to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest.


Committees

Special committees of Council

Council can delegate some of their decision-making powers to special committees of the council. At Casey we only have one special committee, the Planning Committee.

Members of the Planning Committee include all councillors.

When Council delegates to a special committee, it allows the committee to exercise the power to make certain decisions ‘as the council’. This is why the Local Government Act subjects special committees to the same statutory procedures and conduct as the Council.

Members of special committees are required to comply with conflict of interest and confidentiality provisions in the same way that Councillors do.

The Planning Committee’s decision-making power is limited only to those matters covered in the formal delegation document.

If a special committee determines matters that are not contained in the delegation, they cannot be given effect until separately decided by the council.

Advisory committees

Advisory committees can also assist councils by informing Council decision making. They can provide particular expertise to help the Council make its decisions, or help engage community resources and opinion.

They don’t have any formal, delegated powers to act in place of the Council. Their decisions or recommendations have no legal standing unless they are adopted by the Council at a formal meeting.

The Council sets out the committee’s purpose and how it will function. As with special committees, the City of Casey retains control over the membership and purpose of the committee.

Short-term advisory committees (sometimes called ‘working groups’ or ‘ad hoc groups’) may be created for a particular purpose and disbanded when that purpose is achieved.

The Council is not bound to accept a recommendation of an advisory committee.

Council briefings and workshops

It’s important that Councillors find out about the detail of relevant issues before making decisions at council meetings.

The City of Casey holds briefings or workshops to help brief Councillors on strategic issues affecting the Council. These are generally internal sessions with Council staff but sometimes outside advisors are present.

Briefing sessions enable Councillors to discuss issues among themselves and with senior staff. These briefing sessions can help Councillors understand a complex issue. They provide a way for councillors to request additional information to assist them in making decisions.

Councillors cannot make legally binding decisions in briefings or workshops.  At any meeting involving at least half the Councillors and at least one member of staff (referred to as ‘assemblies of Councillors’) where matters are likely to lead to a formal Council decision, a record must be kept of those items considered and Councillors are subject to the conflict of interest rules.

Councillor briefing sessions are not the same as public briefings. Public briefings are held by the City of Casey when we want to brief members of the community about Council activities, or other significant matters that might be coming before the Council in the near future.


Community consultation

Council may use community consultation to help them make important decisions. Most consultation methods used by Council include the opportunity for direct participation from the community.

The Local Government Act requires Council to call for public submissions in a number of circumstances outlined under Statutory consultation.


Councillors and the community

Councillors have well developed networks of community contacts and involvements. They attend community meetings and events, hold ward or community forums and represent the Council at community functions.

A Councillor may be asked to bring matters of concern to an individual or a group to the attention of the Council. Depending on the issue, such a request might be:

  • passed on to the City of Casey CEO for attention or advice
  • raised informally with other Councillors or at a Councillor briefing
  • raised at a formal council meeting
  • referred to an external body.

Find out which Councillor represents your ward here.