Public shut out of decisions

Latrobe City Council says it is implementing changes to improve transparency after it emerged councillors, at one point, made almost half of their decisions in sessions closed to the public.

According to the State Government’s ‘Know Your Council’ website, Latrobe City made 47.10 per cent of its decisions in the 2014/15 financial year behind closed doors, the highest rate in the state.

The figure also sat in stark contrast to other regional councils, with Greater Bendigo making just four per cent of its decisions in meetings closed to the public, Ballarat five per cent and Greater Shepparton 14 per cent.

Latrobe City chief executive Gary Van Driel said half the decisions made behind closed doors related to contractual matters and the other half related to matters that were classified as either a legal, a personnel, or a personal hardship matter, or they were deemed to be prejudicial to the council or any person.

However, he said the number of decisions at closed meetings was due to drop as a result of administrative changes relating to contracts and other governance processes would aim to improve transparency.

“An example of this is the current project to make awarding of contract decisions available to the public, even though they are currently made at closed meetings,” Mr Van Driel said.

“These will be found via a link on council’s website, to council’s e-tender portal. It is anticipated that this new process will be fully implemented within the next month.”

In the area of financial performance, Latrobe City charges higher average rates per residential property assessment at $1494.45, when compared with its Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton counterparts, the website shows.

The lowest average rates of this group are in Greater Bendigo at $1284.74.

In a response on the government website, Latrobe City said its rates were influenced by the need to “maintain and provide council infrastructure and services across four main urban centres”.

To see council’s performance in other areas, visit the Know Your Council website at