Openness of local council meetings and workshops

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier reported in October on his investigation into workshop and meeting open-information practices of eight local government authorities.

In the report he notes: 

“Local councils in New Zealand face a challenging task: meeting high expectations of public accountability and participation, while delivering services in an efficient and effective way, as well as keeping rates as low as possible. Local democracy is built on the premise that the closer decision makers are to the population they serve, the more the people can, and should, participate directly in decisions that affect their daily lives. This is an important task for councils to get right.”

He conducted this investigation out of concern  that councils were using workshops and other informal meetings to make decisions which cannot lawfully be made outside the context of a properly constituted council meeting.

The key to fostering transparency lies in the judicious use of meeting provisions and workshops. It is imperative that councils in New Zealand operate openly and transparently, in accordance with democratic principles, enabling the public to witness democracy in action and actively participate in democratic processes.

“I saw no evidence in my investigation that actual and effective decisions were made in workshops, but I saw some workshop practices that are counter to the principles of openness and could contribute to a public perception that workshops are not being used in the right way,” he concluded in the report.

The report is available at Open for business: A report on the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation into local council meetings and workshops

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