A CITY of Greater Bendigo councillor is refusing to attend a series of meetings as a matter of conscience.
Whipstick Ward councillor Peter Cox says three 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 should be released for public comment at an ordinary, advertised council meeting.
Mayor Barry Lyons urged Cr Cox to reconsider his decision not to attend the meetings but Cr Cox said to release the documents at a special meeting “belittled their importance”.
“I will not be attending as a matter of conscience as I believe it undermines democracy and my role as a councillor,” he said.
Cr Cox said he was concerned that it could become common practice to release important documents at special meetings.
"I raised this issue with council three months ago when they first discussed a special meeting to release the council plan," he said.
"But now they've also decided to release the draft council budget at a special meeting and to me that’s a breakdown of the democratic process."
The first special meeting is tonight at 6.30pm at Bendigo Town Hall. The others are planned for May 21 and June 25.
Cr Cox said the meetings went against the Local Government Act because no resolution had been made to call them. But Cr Lyons said he had authorised the notice to call tonight’s meeting as mayor, making it valid.
“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.
“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 plan before it has to be adopted by June 30, which is a requirement of the Local Government Act.”
Cr Lyons said the council would keep residents informed following the special meetings and encourage submissions.