By SAM CUCCHIARA
DANDENONG ratepayers have slammed a move by Greater Dandenong Council to cap the number of public questions it will respond to during council meetings.
The criticism follows an internal review of the council’s meeting procedures, which govern the way council meetings are conducted.
The draft review, which was made public today, indicates questions will be capped at three questions per person and question time will not exceed an hour.
President of the Dandenong Residents and Ratepayers Association Jim Houlahan said such changes to question time would be an “attack on the freedom of information”.
“I think it’s more important the council actually make every attempt to provide information and make accessible any data that the public want,” he said.
Mr Houlahan said the council may see answering public questions as “a waste of time”.
Cr Matthew Kirwan said if question time were restricted, it would lead to less scrutiny of the council.
“Openness and transparency are essential for effective democracy and good governance,” he said.
Mayor Angela Long would not comment on the review, but said she believed question time should be limited.
Cr Long said that at some meetings there were people who asked up to “30 questions” and were not even present in the gallery.
“It annoys me a little bit because that means we have to stay to listen to all the questions, so I believe the person who is putting all the questions in should be in the gallery,” she said.
Cr Peter Brown said “people outside the council who weren’t elected there” were “hijacking” question time to advance their own political agendas.
He said the changes would protect the council from this “abuse of process”.
The report is now available on the council website and will be formally tabled at Monday’s meeting.
The public will be invited to comment on the changes.