Council announces “historic” meeting shakeup

Council announces “historic” meeting shakeup
David Schout

For the first time in living memory, the City of Melbourne will move council meetings away from Town Hall and into the community, with North Melbourne and Kensington looking like prime candidates.

From September, one meeting per month will take place in one of 14 neighbourhoods within the municipality in a bid to better connect with local communities.

The local meetings will also start at 6pm rather than 5.30pm to allow locals the opportunity to arrive in time.

While the announcement was for just three meetings — in September, October and November this year — Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the new arrangement would be “ongoing”.

“I hope it becomes a tradition for decades to come,” Cr Capp said at a July 27 meeting.

“We are bringing local government democracy to the people and we are engaging local town halls with debates and discussions that affect their lives and livelihoods.”

The move had been a personal goal of Cr Capp since her election in 2018, and said it would bring council decision-making “into the heart of our community”.

She encouraged anyone to attend the meetings in their communities, where the council would make a point of focusing on locally relevant agenda items.

It was likely to choose North Melbourne, Carlton and Kensington as the first three locations.

“Community is at the heart of everything we do at the City of Melbourne so we should make our meetings as accessible as possible for everyone living in the municipality,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The City of Melbourne is lucky to have such diverse neighbourhoods with incredible histories, and they all have unique needs and aspirations that locals want addressed.”

Cr Davydd Griffiths said the shift would allow the council to “make better decisions in the future”.

“It’s an important demonstration to everyone right across the municipality that we take seriously their needs, and that we’re going to do everything we can to ensure those needs are met,” he said.

“This is a real demonstration of how local communities can be even more involved in the decision-making processes at the local government level and that’s vitally important.”

Cr Griffiths said it was also about logistically making sure the highest number of locals could attend.

“We know that not everyone is able to come into the CBD at 5.30pm on a Tuesday night, so hopefully this allows more people to be a part of that process.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said senior council staff could not recall any meeting being held outside Town Hall during the past 40 years

“This is going to be truly historic occasion,” he said.

The City of Melbourne generally holds three meetings per month; one “regular” council meeting and two Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meetings.

The neighbourhood meetings are set to take place on the second FMC meeting of each month, and locations will be announced at least three weeks in advance.

The FMC is made up of the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and nine councillors, each tasked with one or more portfolios.

Discussion and decisions on these evenings range from planning matters to the endorsement of wider strategies and plans that impact the local community •

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