NEWCASTLE council has had a meeting and decided it might need three more meetings to determine how future meetings should run.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. But what isn’t confusing is that the process has cost ratepayers $20,000, and that’s rising.

The council spent 35 minutes of its Tuesday night meeting discussing a “proposal for a special briefing committee”.

Its purpose was to review the way meetings are held and how more of them could be openly accessed or attended by the community.

It’s all part of the council’s bid to become “more open, transparent and accountable”, but ratepayers don’t appear too interested. When the council recently put its draft Code of Meeting Practice on public exhibition, just one person responded.

As councillors debated the best way forward on Tuesday, general manager Ken Gouldthorp said his staff had poured the best of their knowledge into the proposal already formed, “at a cost of somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000 to $25,000”.

That wasn’t enough for some councillors, who wanted expert consultants brought in to run a workshop to draft a policy, at an additional cost of about $25,000.

And then there was debate about whether or not such a workshop would be open to the public.

In the end, the council voted 7-6 in favour of a motion proposed by Green Therese Doyle: “That council conduct a series of up to three open workshops in order to consider and redraft council’s current Code of Meeting Practice”.

The nature and tone of the current policy, she said, “needs to be reviewed so it’s presented in the spirit of openness, transparency and accountability”.

“Efficiency is not happening now,” Ms Doyle added, attracting audible agreement from some in the sparsely populated public gallery.

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