The video below is a recording of the Webinar that ran on Thursday, 9 May 2019. It focused on the following key areas:

  • the difference between informal and formal meetings; 
  • using a combination of informal and formal meetings to achieve strategic objectives and
  • how to deal with constituent enquiries

Video Recording



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Video Download

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Presentation Download

To download the PowerPoint presentation from this webinar please click here.

Question and Answer Session

The following are a range of questions asked during and after the Facilitating Council Business webinar held by WALGA on Thursday, 9 May 2019:

Question
What are some tips for managing Elected Member behaviour during informal meetings that do not operate under Standing Orders (Meeting Procedures) Local Law?

Answer
It is important that the Council agree and adopt ‘rules’ that provide for the good governance of informal meetings. These ‘rules’ can be adopted as a policy and may include matters such as:

  • How informal meetings are scheduled and convened i.e. scheduled on a regular basis or only as required.
  • How Elected Members and the Administration contribute to items for the agenda and how the agenda is set.
  • Nominating who presides at the meeting.
  • How outcomes of meetings are to be recorded and actioned – the record of an Informal Meeting is usually kept in the form of ‘meeting notes’ and not minutes, as the meeting is not a decision making forum.
  • How meeting notes are distributed to all Elected Members and the Executive Officers – this ensures everyone is informed with the same level of information, even if they are unable to attend the informal meeting / forum.
  • Requirements for disclosure of conflicts of interest and requirements for Elected Members to not participate in a part of an informal meeting in which they have a conflict of interest.
  • When community or other stakeholders can attend and who makes decisions about who attends and when i.e. deputations, presentations and whether or not public gallery and public question time will be allowed.
  • The role of the Presiding Member in preserving the order of the meeting and what parts of the Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Law apply, if any.
  • The behaviour obligations for all Elected Members, noting that the Rules of Conduct apply at all times.

It is then over to Elected Members to adhere to the agreed ‘rules’ and to the Presiding Member to guide the meetings and consistently hold Members to account for how they behave in accordance with the agreed ‘rules’.

Question
Can Local Governments require members of the public to submit questions at Council meetings in writing?

Answer
No. Local Governments may request members of the public to submit their questions in writing in advance of the meeting (this can assist the Administration to prepare and provide accurate and detailed answers at the meeting), however a question from a member of the public during Public Question Time at a Council meeting cannot be refused only on the basis that the question has not been submitted in writing

Question
What happens if the Presiding Member provides incorrect information when answering a Public Question during Public Question Time?

Answer
Whilst Public Question Time at Council Meetings provides a great opportunity for Local Government to provide information requested by community members, it is not always easy to ensure that the responses to questions asked without notice are accurately or fully answered ‘on the spot’.

If inaccurate information has been provided in a verbal response to a Public Question at a meeting, then it is appropriate and necessary for the public record (the Meeting Minutes) to be corrected. The Meeting Minutes must identify the inaccurate information provided in the meeting and detail the corrected, or additional information, subsequently provided in a written response to the Questioner.

Question
Are Community Members or Council Members able to ask for the summary of a public question or the response to a public question recorded in the Minutes to be changed?

Answer
The CEO, or the Minute Taker, will summarise public questions and responses in the minutes, this is particularly appropriate where the question or response has been stated with a long preamble, repetitive information or was stated in way that was unclear.  

The requirement is for the minutes to accurately record the substance of the question and the relevant response, not to record the question and answer verbatim.

The Presiding Member at the meeting is responsible for causing minutes to be kept of the meeting’s proceedings [s.5.22(1) of the Local Government Act 1995]. Therefore if an Elected Member considers that the minutes are inaccurate, they should seek advice from the Presiding Member and the CEO before the meeting at which those minutes will be confirmed. 

If the Presiding Member and CEO agree that the minutes are inaccurate, then the motion to confirm the minutes should include details of the amendment required, for example:

“That Council confirms the minutes of the Council Meeting held 13 May 2019, as a true an accurate record, subject to the following amendment….” 

A proposal to amend the minutes should only be considered where the information recorded in the minutes does not accurately record the substance of the question and response.

Question
Is an Alternative Motion different to a Foreshadowed Motion? 

Answer
Yes, an Alternative Motion is different to a Foreshadowed motion.

Alternative Motion: means a motion that proposes an alternative (different) course of action than is proposed in the Officer Recommendation and which is considered before the Officer Recommendation is moved.

Foreshadowed Motion: means a motion that proposes an alternative (different) course of action than is proposed in the Officer Recommendation and which is notified to the meeting during debate of a motion to adopt the Officer Recommendation, with the Foreshadowed Motion only able to be considered if the motion to adopt the Officer Recommendation is LOST.

Question
Can an Alternative Motion be proposed in advance of moving the Officer's Recommendation?

Answer
Yes, an Alternative Motion can be moved before the officer’s recommendation is considered.

If an Elected Member is proposing to move an Alternative Motion, then it is conventional to provide this in writing to the President / Mayor and the CEO some days before the meeting to ensure the Alternative Motion can be dealt with effectively and efficiently:

  • The CEO can review the proposed Alternative Motion and provide advice regarding legal, compliance, financial and resource implications that may be relevant to the proposal and may also recommend changes to the form of the Alternative Motion, so that it is in an appropriate and consistent format; 
  • The CEO can circulate a copy of the proposed Alternative Motion to all Council Members prior to the meeting so that they have time to consider it and ask relevant questions before the meeting commences; and
  • The Presiding Member, in having prior notice, will be able to draw the meeting’s attention to the proposed Alternative Motion at the point in the meeting when the relevant Item is introduced.

The Alternative Motion will only become an active motion if it is seconded, enabling the debate to commence and a vote to subsequently occur.

If however the proposed Alternative Motion does not receive a seconder, then the Presiding Member will seek a mover and seconder for the Officer Recommendation, so that the meeting can then debate and vote on the Officer Recommendation.

Question
If the substantive motion is carried and a Councillor had foreshadowed an amendment how does this proceed?

Answer
A Foreshadowed Motion is a motion that proposes an alternative (different) course of action than is proposed to the substantive motion under debate. By its nature, a Foreshadowed Motion is not the same as an Amendment Motion.   

An Amendment Motion can be moved during the course of debate in accordance with your Standing Orders Local Law as follows:

  • A member during the debate on the Substantive Motion would move an Amendment Motion by saying: "I move that the substantive motion be amended by inserting / deleting the following text….”
  • The Presiding Member must deal with the Amendment Motion immediately (i.e. before progressing debate on the substantive motion any further) by calling for a seconder for the Amendment Motion.
  • If the Amendment Motion is seconded, it is open to debate calling for speakers ‘for’ and ‘against’ the Motion. At the conclusion of debate, the Presiding Member will call for a vote and:
    • If the Amendment Motion is CARRIED, then the amendment is immediately effective resulting in the substantive motion being amended accordingly.  The Presiding Member directs the meeting to resume debate of the substantive motion as amended, guiding the meeting to continue through the call of debate and to then vote on the substantive motion as amended.
    • If however, the Amendment Motion is LOST, then the Presiding Member directs the meeting to resume debate of the substantive motion as originally moved and seconded (without amendment), guiding the meeting to continue through the call of debate and to then vote on the substantive motion.

A Foreshadowed Motion is a useful tactic to consider where an Elected Member believes the substantive motion under debate is not heading in a productive direction and they foresee a different and better way forward. To move a Foreshadowed Motion:

  • During debate of the substantive motion, the proposer attracts the attention of the Presiding Member and states the terms of the Foreshadowed Motion
  • The Presiding Member ensures the Foreshadowed Motion is captured and that all Councillors are clear on the wording. 
  • Debate on the substantive motion continues and the Foreshadowed Motion ‘floats above the meeting’.
  • If the substantive motion is CARRIED, the Foreshadowed Motion will not be considered.
  • If the substantive motion is LOST, the Presiding Member calls upon the proposer to move the Foreshadowed Motion. If seconded, it becomes a substantive motion and is debated as normally provided for in your Standing Orders Local Law.
Question
Is permission from the Presiding Member or CEO required for a Notice of Motion? How can assistance be obtained to prepare the Notice of Motion?

Answer
Each Local Government’s Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Law will include requirements for how and when Notices of Motion are to be submitted and finalised for inclusion in a Council Agenda.  As an example, the WALGA Meeting Procedures Local Law template includes the following relevant clause:

“The CEO -
(a) may, with the concurrence of the Mayor/President, exclude from the notice paper any notice of motion deemed to be, or likely to involve, a breach of any of these Local Laws or any other written law;
(b) will inform Members on each occasion that a notice has been excluded and the reasons for that exclusion;
(c) may, after consultation with the Member where this is practicable, make such amendments to the form but not the substance as will bring the notice of motion into due form; and
(d) may provide to the Council relevant and material facts and circumstances pertaining to the notice of motion on such matters as policy, budget and law.”
Assistance in preparing a Notice of Motion can be obtained through the CEO.

Question
Can an Elected Member speak during debate, by discussing the matter but not making statements that are either ‘For’ or ‘Against’ the motion i.e. can they just discuss the matter?  

Answer
The purpose of debate is to provide Council Members with the opportunity of influencing fellow Council Members through persuasive argument for why Council Members should vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ the motion. 

Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Laws specify a part of the meeting where the rules of debate are active, and no person may comment generally during this time. The Council has the discretion to consider a procedural motion to suspend this part of the Local Law, to permit a discussion. Otherwise, Council Members who use their debate to ‘discuss’ the matter without stating arguments that contribute to Council Members forming views on how they will cast their vote, may be determined by the Presiding Member as irrelevant debate under the Local Law. 

Question
What is “absolute majority”, particularly where all Council Members are not present at the meeting?  

Answer
Section 1.4 of the Local Government Act 1995, provides the definition for an absolute majority:   “…in relation to a council, [absolute majority] means a majority comprising enough of the members for the time being of the council for their number to be more than 50% of the number of offices (whether vacant or not) of member of the council…”

Therefore the number of votes required to achieve an absolute majority does not change, regardless of the number of Council Members actually present at a meeting or if an office of Council is currently vacant I.e. a Councillor has resigned and not yet replaced. 

The following table will assist in identifying the number of votes required for an absolute majority at your Local Government:

Total Number of
Offices on Council
Minimum votes required for an Absolute Majority
6 4
7 4
8 5
9 5
10 6
11 6
12 7
13 7
14 8
15 8


A list of the decisions requiring an absolute majority can be obtained by contacting governance@walga.asn.au

Question
After an Elected Member has participated in the debate, can they then subsequently make comments or ask questions?

Answer
Once an Elected Member has spoken during the debate, the Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Law prohibits that Member from speaking in the debate a second time.  

However, an Elected Member may seek approval from the Presiding Member to ask a question at any time during debate (i.e. during their speech or during another member’s speech).  If the Presiding Member permits the question, then the Elected Member must not attempt to use this as an opportunity to contribute to the debate, with comments limited to asking the question and only if necessary, providing an explanation for the context or relevance of the question.

If during debate of a motion, the Council believes that its decision making would benefit from the ability of Members to speak on the matter more than once, then the Council may consider a motion to suspend that part of the Local Law relating to debate; a Council should never suspend the Local Law in its entirety. 

If this motion is moved, seconded and passed, all discussion flows through the Presiding Member who maintains control of the meeting in accordance with the Local Law. Once the discussion is exhausted, the Presiding Member will call for a motion to resume the Local Law in relation to debate and the substantive motion returns to debate and voted upon.

Question
When is a meeting required to record reasons for Council’s adoption of an amended Officer Recommendation or alternative to the Officer’s Recommendation?

Answer
Regulation 11(da) of the Local Government (Administration) Regulations 1996, requires that written reasons must be recorded in meeting minutes for each decision that is significantly different from the relevant written officer or committee recommendation.

If an Alternative Motion is passed (i.e. different from the Officer / Committee Recommendation) then the minutes must record a reason. 

If however, the Officer / Committee Recommendation is adopted with amendments, then a reason under Regulation 11(da) would be required if the amendments led to a ‘significantly different’ decision from the officer’s recommendation.

For example, if the officer’s recommendation was for a particular action to occur within 12-months, however the officer’s recommendation was amended to require that same action to occur, but within 6-months or even to extend the time period to say… 2 years, then it would be necessary for the Council to record a reason for changing the time period as this would likely constitute a ‘significant’ change to the original recommendation (i.e. it changes the impact on the Local Government’s resources).

Question
How can “grandstanding" by Council Members or members of the public during Public Question Time be dealt with?

Answer
Firstly, ‘grandstanding’ is a subjective term and people tend to hold different views on what constitutes this behaviour. It is therefore important to remember that ‘grandstanding’ does not include any occasion where a person is exercising their legislated right under the Local Government Act, Regulations or a Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Law to participate in a meeting.  

Council Member behaviour in meetings is subject to each Local Government’s Meeting Procedures (Standing Orders) Local Law. The Presiding Member and other Council Members can use provisions within this Local Law to support the efficiency and effectiveness of their meetings, including:

  • The Presiding Member may call a Member to order if the Member’s speech is deemed to be irrelevant, repetitious or a breach of decorum or order and, on that basis, may make a ruling that the Member is to discontinue their speech.
  • The Presiding Member may call a Member to order if the Member’s speech continues beyond the time allocation in the Meeting Procedures Local Law (usually between 3 and 5 minutes per speaker).
  • The Presiding Member may call a Member to order if they interrupt another speaker.
  • The Presiding Member may call a Member to order if they are reflecting adversely on a Council decision or on the character or actions of another Member or an Officer or if their speech includes offensive or objectionable expressions in reference to any Member, Officer or any other person.
  • Any Council Member may bring any of the above matters to the attention of the Presiding Member as a Point of Order, which requires the Presiding Member to consider and rule on the Point of Order before the meeting proceeds further.

In regard to public behaviour during Public Question Time, two elements are essential to support and guide members of the public:

  • Council adopted ‘Guidelines for Public Question Time’, setting out Council’s expectations for members of the public when participating in public question time; and
  • The Presiding Member actively guiding member of the public, and where necessary calling a questioner to order, if they ‘make statements’ rather than asking questions or are providing an unreasonable preamble before asking their question
Question
Will the information provided in this Webinar be affected by the changes proposed in the current Local Government Amendment Bill 2019 and also the future Local Government Act Review?

Answer
The Local Government Amendment Bill 2019, that is currently (May 2019) before the Parliament will, if passed, have the following implications for Facilitating Council Business:
  • All Elected Members will be required to complete ‘Universal Training’ within the 12-months following their initial and any subsequent election. This training includes courses on the topics of “Meeting Procedures and Debating” and “Serving on Council”, which will support Elected Members in more capably using their role in informal and formal meeting to better facilitate the business of their own Local Government.
  • A new model Code of Conduct that will be required to be adopted by Council and will be applicable to Elected Members and all CEO’s. This new model Code of Conduct will include the current Rules of Conduct and other requirements relating to the behaviour of Council Members generally, which includes behaviour at meetings.
It is unknown at this time what, if any, changes may arise from the Phase 2 Local Government Act Review however, the State Government has committed to consultation with the Local Government sector on the Green Bill for a new Local Government Act, expected to be available in mid to late 2020.