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Council meetings

Council meetings are the principal decision-making forum for a local government. The local governments set their policies, adopt their corporate plans, approve, and adopt budgets, and make their local laws in meetings. The prime example of accountable and transparent decision-making by local governments are the decisions taken in their meetings.

Well-prepared agendas, orderly meetings and minutes that accurately reflect the proceedings of local government meetings contribute to an efficient, effective, and accountable system of local government. Agendas, minutes, and the actual decisions of the local government are arguably the most important records of local governments.

Ordinary local government meetings (with all councillors) are held to conduct the core business of the council and make decisions. Councillors may also appoint selected councillors to standing committees with continuing functions and responsibilities, and special committees established for a particular purpose with limited activities and time.

Agendas and notice of meetings

Councils must meet at least once a month, although many larger local governments meet more frequently. Meetings are generally held at one of the local government’s public offices.

Local governments must publish, at least once a year, details of the days and times of both the ordinary meetings of the local government and any standing committees. The details must be published on the local government’s website and in a newspaper circulating in the area.

All full council and standing committee meetings are open to the public to attend., Councillors can make a resolution to close a meeting to the public only to discuss the following types of confidential matters:

  • appointment, dismissal, or discipline of employees
  • industrial matters affecting employees
  • the local government’s budget
  • rating concessions or contracts proposed to be made by the local government
  • legal advice or legal proceedings involving the council
  • any action to be taken by the local government under the Planning Act 2016 (PA), including applications made to it under the PA
  • business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else or enable a personal to gain a financial advantage.

Although you have the right to attend council and committee meetings, you do not have a right to participate or speak at the meeting unless you are invited to do so. You may be able to apply to your council to request that you address a future council meeting.

Councils must publish the agenda before each full council and standing committee meeting on the council website, along with any reports or other documents that will be considered.

Well-structured meeting agendas assist councillors to make informed decisions at meetings that are derived from analysis and constructive debate. They also provide members of the public with details of the issues to be discussed prior to the meeting. A document relating to an agenda item to be discussed at a local government meeting is not required to be made publicly available if it contains confidential information.

Good decision-making

A local government decision is the result of a democratic process and debate. The final decision is the result of open voting by the majority of councillors at the meeting. Once a collective decision is made, all councillors must abide by the decision.

The local government must ensure that it acts in the public interest for the entire community over any personal interests they may have. The personal financial and non-financial interests of councillors and their dependent family members must be disclosed in registers of interests. Councillors’ current interests are published on the local government’s website and must be kept up to date.

Councillors may be required to limit their participation in decision-making on matters in which they have (or could be perceived to have) a conflict of interest. This occurs when the interests of the councillor, or their close associate or related party, and the public interest are in conflict. Councillors are required to ensure they are not involved in matters where their involvement could result in a decision that might be contrary to the public interest.

Councillors have a responsibility to take particular actions to deal with conflicts of interest when participating in local government decisions. Each councillor will need to assess whether they have a conflict of interest in a matter to be decided by their local government. Councillors must always remain mindful of their obligation to adhere to the local government principles and the Local Government Act 2009 (or the City of Brisbane Act 2010).

If you suspect that a councillor has been involved in decisions where they have a conflict of interest, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Assessor. For more information you can read the Councillor conduct complaints fact sheet or visit www.oia.qld.gov.au.

Meeting minutes

Minutes are the official record of the business transacted at council meetings and the decisions made. As a legal record and a public document, they are arguably the most important records of a local government.

A draft copy of the minutes must be available for inspection at the council’s public office and on its website within five business days after the end of the meeting.

Closed meetings

Local government and standing committee meetings are open to the public, except when they resolve that matters are inappropriate to be discussed in a public meeting.

A meeting may be closed to the public if its councillors or members consider it necessary to discuss:

  • appointment, dismissal, or discipline of employees
  • industrial matters affecting employees
  • the local government’s budget
  • rating concessions or contracts proposed to be made by the local government
  • legal advice or legal proceedings involving the council
  • any action to be taken by the local government under the Planning Act 2016 (PA), including applications made to it under the PA
  • business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local
  • government or someone else or enable a personal to gain a financial advantage.

If the matters to be considered in a closed meeting are known in advance, the agenda should clearly identify them as matters that will be considered while the meeting is closed to the public. At the appropriate point during the meeting, the council must resolve to close the meeting to the public. The resolution to close the meeting to the public must state why the meeting is to be closed and include a description of the matters to be discussed while the meeting is closed.

A local government or committee must not make a resolution by voting during a closed meeting. The open meeting must resume to pass a resolution if any decisions are necessary following the closed-meeting discussion.

Last updated: 23 Feb 2023