The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is calling on the State Government to make urgent changes to council meeting requirements, enabling them to occur online amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Both the Local Government Act 1989 and the new Local Government Act 2020 require councillors (or administrators) to be physically in attendance at a council meeting in order to participate in council decision making.
Without a majority of councillors in attendance, councils cannot make a quorum (the minimum number of people required to make a meeting valid) and the meetings cannot proceed.
The Central Goldfields Shire Council, while opening this week’s ordinary council meeting to the public, strongly discouraged members of the community from attending to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus.
For the first time in its history, council also live-streamed the council meeting on Facebook.
The MAV is calling on the State Government to make amendments to the Local Government Act to
enable councils to hold meetings online or to use declaration powers under the Emergency Management Act to allow for alternate solutions, as requiring councillors to meet face to face goes against current social distancing advice to slow the spread of COVID-19.
MAV president Coral Ross said that in-person meetings are neither practical nor safe and present a “significant concern” for councils country-wide.
“Inflexible council meeting requirements under state legislation is a significant concern for local governments across the country as many council chambers do not allow for appropriate social distancing,” she said.
For more on this story see Page 9 of The Advertiser, Friday, March 27