TIME allowed for the public and councillors to speak at City of Swan council meetings has been cut in an effort to streamline council meetings.
The change was part of a review of the City’s meeting procedures local law which aimed to improve decision making and efficiency of council meetings.
Ironically, and despite staff conducting one workshop and three briefings with council on the proposed changes to the local law, two councillors put forward a total of 14 amendments on the item, which then had to be approval by council separately.
Cr Bowman moved 11 amendments, two to reduce public deputation time and councillor debate time from five to three minutes and others relating to public question time, petition submission and councillor question time.
Under the changes councillors can request an additional two minutes of speaking time.
All of the amendments passed in varying levels of support from council, with the exception of Cr Ian Johnson who voted against every one.
Cr Johnson was particularly opposed to the reduction of public and councillor speaking time, saying more contentious items required more than three minutes.
“Councillors, this is wrong, and it is inappropriate and it is in effect hobbling council,” he said.
Cr Johnson also moved three amendments, of which only one was supported.
Ultimately some, if not all, of the amendments could eventually be rendered redundant under major WA local government reforms.
In its 2021 submission on the reforms, the WA Local Government Association recommended meeting procedures and standing orders for all local government meetings be standardised across the state.
This would mean members of the public across all local governments would have the same opportunities to address council and ask questions.
In comparison with other local government councils of similar size, but not necessarily comparable by growth, the City of Wanneroo allows five minutes of speaking time per councillor per item and 10 minute public deputations, and the City of Stirling allows five minutes and four minutes respectively.
In Echo News readership, Mundaring allows three minutes of councillor speaking time and three minute deputations, and Kalamunda allows five minutes per councillor and 10 minute deputations.
Swan is currently the fastest growing local government in WA, resulting in a large amount of planning and governance items to get through per meeting.
Of the past four Swan monthly council meetings, three have been adjourned to secondary meetings after the council was unable to address all the items on the agenda before 10pm.
In the case of the adjourned June meeting, items not addressed in the second meeting, such as a motion to review a realignment of the National Rail Freight Route, have been rolled into next month.
By Claire Ottaviano