How does your council make decisions?
One of the main roles of elected members is to make decisions on behalf of the local community. This is done at council meetings.
The meeting process
Councils meet regularly, at least once a month, and these meetings are generally open to the public. The agenda, or list of issues for discussion at the meeting, is made available to the public in advance so that the community knows which issues are being discussed.
In special circumstances, parts of a council meeting may be closed to the public, when matters of a confidential nature are being discussed. This might include an individual’s financial circumstances, a particular staff member or legal matters.
The meetings are run by the Mayor (or chair of the meeting) of the council, and follow formal meeting procedures. These procedures ensure all elected members have a chance to speak about the issues and that all the listed items are discussed.
When decisions need to be made, the Mayor (or chair of the meeting) calls for a vote, and the outcome is decided by a majority vote (the choice that most council members support).
As well as attending council meetings members of the public can, in some councils, make a prior request for permission to address the elected members and council officers on relevant issues.
Sometimes community groups may want council to consider a particular matter and they may obtain a large number of signatures from the public on what is called a petition. These petitions are presented to council which then encourages the elected members to discuss the matter and come to a decision.
Councils encourage the attendance of the media - newspapers, radio and television stations - as this is a useful tool in letting the community know what decisions have been made. For those people who do not attend meetings, minutes of the meeting are available at council offices, libraries or online.
These visits are encouraged by councils as they increase community awareness and participation in the local government process.
As well as full council meetings, sometimes councils also have committee meetings. These committee meetings allow time for more detailed discussion on particular subjects or issues, for example, policy development.
These committees make recommendations to the full council, where the decisions are voted upon.