Councillor refuses to attend meetings as a matter of conscience

Councillor Peter Cox

Councillor Peter Cox

UPDATE, 4.45pm TUESDAY: City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons has urged councillor Peter Cox to reconsider his decision not to attend a series of special council meetings.

“Cr Peter Cox is a respected member of council and I am disappointed that he has decided on this course of action," Cr Lyons said.

“The council plan and the budget for 2014/2015 are very important and I am sure that Whipstick Ward residents would want Peter to be sitting at the council table when these matters are discussed and decided upon," he said.

“I urge Peter to reconsider and attend these important meetings so his voice can be heard."

Cr Lyons said it was important to note that this week's meeting was not invalid.

“As mayor, I authorised the notice to call a special meeting for the draft council plan in accordance with Section 84 (1) of the Local Government Act," he said.

“Special meetings are not always held to consider the draft council plan or budget, but in this instance it was necessary in order to receive and adequately consider all submissions from community groups and residents to the council pan before it has to be adopted by June 30, which is another requirement of the Act.

“Residents will be kept well-informed and engaged following the special meetings to encourage submissions.”

EARLIER:

A CITY of Greater Bendigo councillor has refused to attend a special meeting this week as a matter of conscience, calling it invalid.

Cr Peter Cox says a series of special meetings to release a draft council plan and budget should not proceed.

He said the plan and budget were the most important documents the council produced each year and they needed to be released for public comment at an ordinary, advertised council meeting.

"[At an ordinary council meeting] there is usually a large audience present along with a radio audience to hear the debate," Cr Cox said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

"To release them at a special meeting which is only likely to last for about 20 minutes belittles their importance," he said.

"I believe the option of special meetings can be used for urgent, unforeseen issues which may arise from time to time but not for such important issues such as the plan and budget.”

The council has planned special meetings for this Wednesday as well as May 21 and June 25.

“I will not be attending as a matter of conscience as I believe it undermines democracy and my role as a councillor," Cr Cox said.

"I believe in a transparent council. The Local Government Act, section 84(2A), states that a council might by resolution call a special meeting of the council. There has been no such resolution, therefore, I believe the meetings are invalid," he said.

“I have successfully moved a number of motions at council to have an annual calendar of council events published on the council website so that residents are aware of important dates and events well in advance but no such calendar exists.

"The council has had 12 months to prepare its plan and budget. To now say it needs a special meeting defies logic and fair play.  

"The council needs to be more transparent in its deliberations. There is an ordinary council meeting next week so the plan can be dealt with at that meeting.”

Cr Cox said the plan and the budget spelt out the council’s priorities for the coming 12 months.

"It’s spending $180 million of ratepayers and taxpayers money, therefore, it needs to be part of the normal council process and not treated at a meeting that most people will not be aware of," he said.

The Advertiser has contacted the council for a response.

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