Council reverts community meetings back to Town Hall
The City of Melbourne has canned a two-year experiment of holding monthly meetings throughout the community, reverting all assemblies back to Town Hall from 2024.
At the October 31 council meeting councillors opted to discontinue holding one of two Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meetings per month at a community venue throughout the municipality.
November’s meeting in Southbank, at The Opera Centre, will be the last planned community FMC meeting.
First adopted in July 2021, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said at the time she hoped the monthly FMC community meeting would “become a tradition for decades to come”.
“We are bringing local government democracy to the people, and we are engaging local town halls with debates and discussions that affect their lives and livelihoods,” she said.
Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece also said it was a “historic” occasion as senior council staff could not recall any meeting being held outside Town Hall during the previous 40 years.
However, from 2024 all three meetings held during each month (two FMC and one council) will take place at Town Hall.
“Melbourne Town Hall is a centrally located venue with purpose-built accessible facilities, and meeting primarily at Town Hall ensures meetings are accessible to the whole municipality, particularly as agenda items often relate to a number of different neighbourhoods,” a report from officers noted on October 31.
However, should the council determine an upcoming agenda next year was “significantly weighted towards a neighbourhood”, by either the number of agenda items or significance of items, it may arrange a meeting at a relevant venue within that community.
“We have really enjoyed our Future Melbourne Committee meetings that have been hold in community locations,” Cr Capp said.
“And while this isn’t specified as the way forward for meetings next year, for reasons that we’ve well understood from the reports received from officers, this in no way signals our intention to in any way diminish our ongoing commitment, engagement and accessibility to members of the community. We note the many ways that we have increased that, particularly through our neighbourhood model, and long may that continue.”
Southbank3006 president David Hamilton said they were pleased with the move.
“This was an expensive activity that played a role before the council’s neighbourhood program and participate program for community engagement was on the ground and firmly established. We are pleased that FMC meetings will continue to be held at Town Hall because it is a venue that is accessible to all residents,” he told Southbank News.
He said the move would not account to any loss and praised the transparency of the current council compared with those in the past.
Nothing will be lost by the recent decision; in fact, it will make participation in FMC meetings easier for Southbank residents.
“The City of Melbourne, unlike many councils in the state, maintains an inclusive and open dialogue with its residents via the FMC process including its budget processes.”
“It is a far cry from the old style of council that characterised Melbourne for decades.”
Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said he was “on the fence” about the decision and could see both the pros and cons.
“It was nice that the council engaged with the community in their respective areas, but what did it achieve? It was a warm and fuzzy exercise,” he said.
“Yes, the local community might have felt the love, but so often there were technical problems with the equipment, etc., problems we rarely experienced at Town Hall.”
“The council has indicated that should there be a significant issue or announcement in a specific area then it would consider holding a special meeting there. I am not too fussed about this and can see the pros and cons.”
In more than two years of assemblies at varying venues, FMC meetings took place at Clifton Freshwater Place in Southbank, The Hub in Docklands, St Martins Youth Arts Centre, Kensington Town Hall and Melbourne Connect in Carlton, among many others.
The FMC is made up of the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and nine councillors, each tasked with one or more portfolios.
Discussion and decisions on these evenings range from planning matters to the endorsement of wider strategies and plans that impact the local community. •