Councils have been told by the Ombudsman to open workshops by default to reduce the perception that decisions are being made behind closed doors.
Peter Boshier’s call echoes concerns The News has had in recent months about Waipā District Council’s regular monthly public excluded workshops where it appeared issues were discussed out of the public eye.
It could see a return to good old fashioned debating in council chambers up and down the country rather than rubber-stamping exercises at short meetings.
Boshier released his Open for Business report on Tuesday. He investigated eight councils. Waipā was not one of them.
The News has taken issue with Waipā because of the regularity elected members cite information received at workshops when making decisions at public meetings.
Boshier found no evidence that any of the eight councils were making decisions in the workshops but found some workshop practices were counter to the principles of openness and could contribute to a perception that workshops are not being used in the right way.
“I also discovered that a range of council officials and elected members didn’t want to open workshops for a number of reasons including that asking questions could make them look stupid.”
Boshier said protecting councillors was not a valid reason to close the workshop doors.
“Elected members should be resilient enough to withstand reasonable public scrutiny. It is the job they are elected to do.”