Ararat Rural City Council has determined how it will be accountable to the community for the next several years.
At its ordinary meeting on Tuesday night, the council adopted its Council Expenses and Support and Public Transparency policies, which like all other councils it is required to replace after the state government passed the Local government Act (2020) in March.
Regarding the expenses policy, the council will provide reimbursement of costs where the provision of childcare is reasonably required for a councillor or member of a delegated committee to perform their role
Councillors will have their travel expenses reimbursed for attending council meetings and ceremonies, however they will not be paid for travel undertaken at the choice of the councillor or to inspect resident's inquiries or complaints.
"Where possible the public transport network should be utilised to attend meetings and conferences," the policy states.
Regarding the public transparency, the new policy states 'The Council may decide, in the interests of transparency, to release information to the public even though it is confidential under the Act.
"However, this will not happen if release is contrary to law or if releasing the information is likely to cause harm to any person or is not in the public interest to do so," the policy reads.
"Where information is not confidential, and not already available, Council will apply the principles of a public interest test with consideration also of the resources required to respond to the request."
During debate, Cr Gwenda Allgood said she was confident the recommendations in the transparency policy had been "well thought out".
"We need to follow it and do the right thing by what we are experiencing at the moment," she said.
Cr Peter Beales asked where the register of staff and councillors' conflicts of interests would be available on the council website or available by application. Chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said it would be on the website.
Cr Bernardine Atkinson asked what was meant by the chief executive "keeping" the register. Dr Harrison replied he was responsible for ensuring it was maintained.
The council also voted to puts its draft Governance Rules out for public comment for 14 days.
Addressing councillors at the meeting, chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said he thought the new rules were a "cleaner and more effective way of dealing with governments and council".
"The rules are based on a model provided by our local government solicitors, which are based strongly on the rules provided by Local Government Victoria."
The council is set to consider the draft rules at its August meeting. these are soon to be available on the council's website. They are currently scheduled to come into effect on September 1.
Cr Atkinson asked Dr Harrison if the council could change the wording provided y lawyers in some interpretations of the act.
"I think there would have to be a very strong case to override the recommendations of our lawyers. We do pay them for advice on our legal documents," Dr Harrison said.
Cr Beales said he had some issues with the new draft rules, but would wait until community consultation came back to express them.
Councillors also voted to consider a petition from residents of Dean Street, in Ararat's north, at its next meeting on August 25.
The petition signed by ten people called for council officers to inspect Dean Street, and detailed perceived issues on the street including a lack of proper drainage and hoon behaviour.
"We have had accidents occur, the most recent one being where a young P plater crashed into the front of a house," it said.
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