Doubts are growing over the feasibility of holding council meetings in the normal way over the next few months.
Following the widespread shutdown of non-essential services on Monday, the City of Ballarat confirmed that a special planning meeting had been cancelled last Wednesday. It has now rescheduled as part the ordinary council meeting on April 1.
However, questions remain over that meeting with restrictions over movement likely to increase over the next weeks and days.
Under local government law, all councillors need to be in the same location for council meetings.
The mayor Cr Ben Taylor said he was hoping for an exemption given the global outbreak of COVID-19.
"At the moment, the local government act does not allow us to close the meeting unless it is for security," he said.
If members aren't well but still want to contribute, how can they do that?Ballarat Mayor Cr Ben Taylor
"If members aren't well but still want to contribute, how can they do that?"
"Why can't we have a screen at that desk and [an absent councillor] is active and engaged in our communications?"
"These are extraordinary circumstances and we should get exemptions."
In a statement, a state government spokesperson confirmed that, "like the Victorian and Federal Parliament, councils are required to have the physical presence of members to meet."
"The Local Government Bill 2019 allows Councils to close their meetings to the public if it considers it necessary for security reasons, provided it enables the meeting to be viewed by the public, such as being streamed on the internet."
"While this Bill only passed the Parliament [last Tuesday], the [Local Government] Minister is seeking to make this section of the bill operational next week.
Another issue is the asking of public questions in person, which is a right under local law. Cr Taylor suggested these questions may have to be written instead of presented in person under restrictions likely to be introduced due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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