Interested Ballarat ratepayers watching last night's live stream of the council's special budget meeting were left bewildered when Mayor Ben Taylor declared the meeting closed after just 55 minutes.
After adopting the 2020/21 budget and new draft governance rules, Cr Taylor abruptly finished proceedings and the stream.
The Courier understands council then went into a review to receive briefings about matters on the forthcoming agenda, and the meeting continued in camera, as it was not a public meeting. The decision to change the meeting had not been advertised and caught those watching by surprise.
The move apparently caught at least some councillors by surprise as well.
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It came as an ironic twist, as just minutes before councillors had been singing the praises of new transparency principles which had been incorporated into the draft governance plan.
Earlier - in the part of the meeting made available to the public - interim CEO Janet Dore warned councillors the stress placed on the new budget by COVID-19, aligned with the decision to abandon any rate rise, would put pressure on the council into the future.
"It does not bode well for the long-term future plan," Ms Dore said.
However the impending restructure of the council executive divisions would save money, Ms Dore said, leading Cr Daniel Moloney to ask where cuts would be made.
Ms Dore gently demurred on the term 'cuts', preferring the nuance of 'streamlining and efficiencies', she said.
The shading may be lost on any staff members facing the axe, but Ms Dore stressed "the way we do things must change, and accountability must be there."
Cr Taylor spoke in favour of the budget, saying the rates and fees freeze was a credit to council management.
It was seconded by Cr Johnson, who gave fulsome praise to outgoing director of business Glenn Kallio.
Both the budget and draft governance plans, which will now go out for public comment, were passed unanimously.
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