21-02 Temporary exemption from the requirement for councillors to attend meetings in person
|Circular Details||21-02 / 1 April 2021 / A765862|
|Previous Circular||21-01 Transitioning back to in-person council and committee meetings and consultation on proposed changes allowing remote attendance at meetings|
|Who should read this||Councillors / General Managers / All council staff|
|Contact||Council Governance / 02 4428 4100 / email@example.com|
|Action required||Information / Council to Implement|
|PDF Version||21-02 Temporary exemption from the requirement for councillors to attend meetings in person|
What’s new or changing
- The Office of Local Government (OLG) is currently consulting with councils and others on proposed amendments to the Model Code of Meeting Practice for Local Councils in NSW(Model Meeting Code) allowing councillors to attend meetings remotely using audio-visual links. A discussion paper has been issued and submissions are due on 3 May 2021.
- The Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 (the Regulation) has been amended to temporarily exempt councils from complying with the requirement under their codes of meeting practice for councillors to be personally present at meetings to participate in them. The exemption expires on 31 December 2021.
- The Regulation amendment will operate to allow councils to permit councillors to attend meetings remotely by audio-visual link while OLG consults on the new provisions of the Model Meeting Code and until such time as councils are able to adopt them.
What this will mean for your council
- As of 26 March 2021, councils are now required under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1993 to hold meetings of the council and committees comprising only of councillors in physical venues and to permit members of the public to attend meetings in person, subject to the requirements of any Public Health Order in force at the time and social distancing requirements.
- The Regulation amendment operates to exempt councils from the requirement under clause 5.2 of the Model Meeting Code for councillors to be personally present at a meeting in order to participate in it.
- For the period in which the Regulation amendment is in force, councils have the option to permit councillors to attend and participate in meetings remotely by audio-visual link should councils choose to do so.
- Councils are not required to amend their codes of meeting practice to allow councillors to attend meetings remotely by audio-visual link while the Regulation amendment is in force but should adopt procedures governing attendance by councillors at meetings by audio-visual link to supplement their codes of meeting practice. Suggested procedures are attached to this circular.
- The Regulation amendment does not apply to joint organisations of councils or county councils. The regulation making power under which the Regulation has been amended only allows exemptions to be made for “areas” constituted under Part 1 of Chapter 9 of the Act. These provisions do not apply to joint organisations of councils or county councils.
- Joint organisations are already permitted to meet by telephone or other electronic means under clause 397G of the Regulation and the Model Meeting Code. However, it is not possible to exempt county councils by regulation and members of county councils will need to continue to attend meetings in person to participate in them until amendments are made to the Model Meeting Code permitting attendance at meetings by audio-visual link.
- In dealing with requests by councillors to attend meetings by audio-visual link on grounds of illness, disability or caring responsibilities, councils must ensure they comply with the Health Privacy Principles prescribed under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002.
Where to go for further information
- Suggested procedures for attendance by councillors at meetings using audio-visual link are attached to this circular.
- The Remote Attendance by Councillors at Council Meetings consultation paper is available on OLG’s website here.
- Guidance on the Health Privacy Principles is available here.
- For further information please contact the Council Governance Team on 02 4428 4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Government, Planning and Policy