Council set to tighten up rules on remote meeting attendance

Penrith City Councillor, Ross Fowler. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Penrith City Councillor Ross Fowler has expressed concern over his fellow councillor colleagues not attending meetings in person.

At the May Ordinary Meeting, Fowler requested a report to be prepared for Council regarding councillor attendance at public meetings.

The report was presented this week to councillors, where changes to the Code of Meeting Practice were recommended, which would require Councillors to seek approval from the General Manager before attending meetings remotely.

Fowler said that he requested the report because there have been instances where too many councillors were not attending meetings in person.

“It probably goes back to a meeting several months ago and it was a public meeting, an Ordinary Council meeting, and half the chamber was empty,” Fowler said.

“I thought we really do have a responsibility to the community and to the people who elected us to actually turn up to meetings and be present rather than online.”

Four options for attendance were presented in the report with one being the recommended choice.

“It is suggested that the right balance could be to insert provisions that outline criteria for remote attendance and that councillors are required to seek approval from the General Manager providing reasons for the requirement to attend remotely,” the report to Council said.

“The General Manager would then consider this in accordance with the policy.”

Fowler said that he believes councillors have a responsibility to physically attend the meetings, so they can serve their communities.

“The responsibility as elected people is to be present for at least the public meetings which are 11 Ordinary meetings and probably five or six Policy Review Committee meetings a year which is not a big ask for our people to be there,” Fowler said.

“Yes, we do go to a lot of functions and a lot of other things, but I think that the public meetings are the important place where people can see their representatives in action and also make presentations if they want to at the meeting and expect the people who represent them to listen to them.”

Since October 2022, there have been 27 public meetings of Council held.
During that time, according to the report presented to Council on Monday night, 249 instances of councillors attending in person have occurred and 79 instances of councillors attending remotely have occurred.

As it stands the average councillor attendance is 12 out of 14, with nine being in person and three being remote.

Fowler said he was unsurprised when none of his councillor colleagues opposed the motion.

“No, not really [surprised] because I don’t think anyone wanted to embarrass themselves,” Fowler said.

Emily Chate

Emily Chate joined The Western Weekender in 2024, and covers local news - primarily courts and politics. A graduate of the University of Wollongong, Emily has contributed to The Daily Telegraph and worked as a freelance journalist.

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