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MAKING DECISIONS AT BRIEFINGS

ISSUE

When a council uses briefings to discuss key issues and reach consensus, the decision-making process is no longer open and transparent.

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SCENARIO

A council regularly uses briefings to work through the draft agenda for the next council meeting. In these sessions councillors develop a consensus position on all the key issues in the agenda. There is little or no debate at the next council meeting as the councillors already know all the outcomes.

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WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Briefings should be used to ensure that councillors have all the information they need to develop an opinion on key issues. This information can consist of research, background information and the results of any consultation processes. Briefings should not be used to debate or develop a collective position on issues. This should happen in council meetings where the decision-making process is transparent and open.

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HOW TO TACKLE THIS SITUATION

  • councillors and the administration should understand and agree on the role of briefings in the decision-making process
  • the administration should provide information to councillors in briefings
  • councillors should ask questions in briefings to satisfy themselves that they have sufficient information to form an opinion on the issues in question
  • councils might consider whether the Chief Executive Officer should chair the briefings so that every councillor has the opportunity to clarify information and ask questions
  • while conflict of interest requirements apply to briefings (via Assembly of Councillors provisions) this does not imply that briefings are decision-making forums.

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