Councillor criticises ‘closed meetings’

A LATROBE City councillor believes a detailed investigation into what the council looks at in closed meetings should have taken place before damning data was released.

The council was labelled the state’s most secretive after the State Government’s ‘Know Your Council’ website showed it had made almost half of its decisions in private during 2014-2015.

But Cr Graeme Middlemiss said his own calculations pointed to a much lower figure, having removed procedural and contractual matters out of the equation.

“I have got to say this should have been blatantly obvious to the local government department – these figures should never have been published,” Cr Middlemiss said.

“I support the ‘Know Your Council’ website; it’s a great idea. I don’t support incorrect, misleading information being put on there.”

Cr Middlemiss last month requested a report be presented to council, listing all items tabled in closed sessions since the start of 2014.

His move came after the data was published and Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass announced she would investigate transparency of the state’s councils.

The summary was tabled at last Monday night’s open council meeting, where Cr Middlemiss justified what Latrobe City councillors decided or tabled behind closed doors.

“I’m quite confident if the Ombudsman approaches this with an open mind, Latrobe City will end up with a very different set of statistics,” Cr Middlemiss told The Express.

He explained any item in closed meetings was listed on a public agenda and could include accepting the last meeting’s minutes.

Other items discussed privately involved which tender to award to whom, families unable to afford childcare fees and economic proposals for the region.

Cr Middlemiss said with his recalculation, Latrobe City was not that far off other councils.

The state average in the same period sits at 12.2 per cent and similar councils at 13.9 per cent.

He hopes the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into the transparency of local governments would place Latrobe City in a better light.

Council’s summary of items closed to the public is available in the agenda and minutes section of council’s website: