Drastic measures to keep services

Chloe FraserSound Telegraph
Rockingham council chamber.
Camera IconRockingham council chamber. Credit: City of Rockingham/City of Rockingham

It is far from business as usual in the council chambers, with the City of Rockingham implementing drastic changes to its decision-making processes in response to COVID-19.

In a bid to focus on the delivery of essential services and to adhere to social-distancing requirements, the City has decided to defer all non-essential matters.

Instead the agenda will focus on critical, essential and time- sensitive issues only.

All councillor engagement sessions and all non-essential advisory and occasional committees have been suspended but standing committees will continue to ensure elected members receive any critical information.

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All non-essential research, non-essential policy development and review, and non-essential strategy development and review will also cease.

A City report said maintaining the integrity and timeliness of its decision-making process was a key factor in responding to the evolving environment.

“There will be a number of important compliance requirements that will continue due to their time-sensitive nature,” the report said.

“It is anticipated these measures will need to be in place for as long as the current state of emergency and need for social distancing remains.”

The City will also institute a twice-weekly electronic update for councillors dealing with critical and strategic issues, including COVID-19.

New regulations were also announced by the State Government last week, allowing council meetings to be held electronically during a public health emergency or state of emergency.

Local governments will now be able to hold meetings via teleconference, video conference or other electronic means as councils face increasing challenges in holding meetings while dealing with social distancing and individual self-isolation.

If a meeting is held electronically, however, local governments will need to allocate time for raising questions by members of the public and provide a means for questions to be submitted prior to the meeting.

A fast-tracked application process has been introduced by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for local governments to seek approval for a reduced quorum at meetings.

Local Government Minister David Templeman said it was important that councils were able to continue to support their communities during the pandemic.

“Local governments have an important role to play and the State Government is doing every-thing it can to provide the necessary tools and supports during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“I encourage local governments to make use of electronic means of communication to keep in contact with their community.

“Local governments should post agendas and minutes on their websites as early as possible to continue engaging with their communities as much as possible.”

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