New Capel president to put an end to closed-door meetings

A new era: Councillor Michael Southwell at the Shire of Capel meeting on October 21 after being sworn in as president. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
A new era: Councillor Michael Southwell at the Shire of Capel meeting on October 21 after being sworn in as president. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Shire of Capel councillor Michael Southwell has marked the beginning of his term as president by moving to end closed-door meetings in a bid to provide greater transparency.

It is understood the move, announced on Wednesday, November 6, has the support of Shire chief executive officer Ian McCabe and is the first in a suite of planned changes to the structure of the shire's council meetings.

Councillor Southwell has also requested a special council meeting for Monday, November 11, to consider the 2020/21 budget, the heritage value of Gelorup and the Bunbury Outer Ring Road project.

The change is designed to encourage the community to be part of all aspects of council activity, with the one-hour informal council meeting set to be rebranded as a 'forum' open to the community.

Councillor Southwell said the decision was designed to quash any perception that there were things being hidden from the community and the only exception would be matters with an obvious need for confidentiality.

"I want the people of this shire [to] feel they are welcome to take part in, observe or learn more about the processes which their council uses to search for the best possible decisions on what are often very complex questions," councillor Southwell said.

"We also need to get rid of any perception that there is anything being hidden.

"No decisions are made, we simply exchange information and views on current issues concerning the council or our community.

"Among other one-off workshops, there is traditionally a one-hour informal closed-doors meeting of councillors and senior staff just prior to the monthly council meetings.

"I plan to open this meeting to anyone who wish to observe this discussion."

It is understood councillor Southwell also intents to move a motion which would see council meeting times moved from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

The move comes just a fortnight after councillor Southwell's appointment as president, which marked the end of councillor Murray Scott's 18-year term in the role.

In his acceptance speech, councillor Southwell said the result highlighted that the community was demanding to see change and stressed council could not continue to do things as they had done previously.