Local government is at the heart of the community, and councillors hold the power to make decisions that affect their constituents’ day-to-day lives immeasurably. As such, it is essential that councils run meetings as effectively and efficiently as possible. To help you streamline your meeting process, this article provides a local government meeting agenda template to show you examples of the best practices that will help facilitate better decision-making.
As British MP Wes Streeting said: “On housing, education and skills, health and social care, transport and economic development, local government is better placed to make decisions in the interests of local communities.”
Local councils should be prepared to make these decisions in full view of the public, so ensuring a robust meeting agenda is the best way to instil confidence in the local governance process.
The importance of a well-organised meeting agenda
A well-organised meeting agenda helps you to hold more efficient meetings that make the decisions that best serve your citizens. The agenda:
- creates a route map for your meeting. It ensures you maintain forward momentum throughout and helps you to cover all of the important topics within the allotted time.
- allows for prioritisation of the most pressing issues at hand.
- plots timings to help your chair dedicate the required time to each item.
- informs meeting members on the relevant topics to research ahead of the meeting, helping them prepare fully.
- helps you focus on the objectives of the meeting.
The agenda is a key element of both the meeting preparation and the meeting itself. With an effective agenda, you can arm your councillors with the tools they need to govern well.
The elements of a municipal meeting agenda
The following are the parts of the meeting agenda that should be present to ensure a well-structured meeting that meets its objectives.
|Date, time, location, and type of meeting||This basic information is important to include so that everyone understands where they need to be, when they need to be there and why they need to attend.|
|Order of business||The order of business is the roadmap of the meeting. It guides you through the required elements, into the meeting-specific topics that you will debate and discuss, and through the appropriate way to close the meeting.|
|Call to order||This signifies when the meeting will start in earnest. The chair should begin the meeting at a certain time, in accordance with the call to order in the agenda.|
|Approving the minutes||Ideally, you will have distributed the minutes from the previous meeting in advance, and this should just be a formality.|
|Public participation||Although you may not be required to allow public participation, it is often desirable to do it in order to engage your voters with the work of the council. Add this element to your agenda if you wish to create time for public comments.|
|Special orders or announcements||These are actions that are time-specific or time-sensitive and, so, should be dealt with in this meeting in addition to the usual business.|
|Unfinished business and general orders||If you postponed items from a previous meeting or did not manage to fit them in, you should discuss them here during this meeting.|
|Adjournment||The last item on the local government meeting agenda should be the adjournment, where the chair brings it to a close.|
Examples of local government meeting agenda templates
Although there is no set way to run a local government meeting, this article has shown you the common elements you will need. Many councils publish their agendas online, and you can see how they structure their meetings.
Newquay Council in the United Kingdom features a full agenda online for each type of local government meeting it holds, for example.
Bodmin Council provides a similar service, showing you how it structures its meetings.
How to create a local government meeting agenda
When planning a council meeting, there are some important steps to take. This will allow you to determine what makes the agenda and how the meeting will proceed. Here are some essential planning elements:
1. Determine meeting goals and objectives
Only by understanding what your goals and objectives are for the meeting can you create the necessary focus to get things done. There are a few common objectives for council meetings, and how your agenda looks will be determined by which ones you need to achieve.
It all starts with the purpose of the meeting. This could be to solve problems and reach decisions, share information, obtain information or provide instruction or training. Once you have worked out which of these categories the meeting falls into, you can then start to craft the agenda with the specific details of the meeting content.
Without objectives, the meeting can lack direction.
2. Identify attendees and their roles
Some meetings will necessitate full attendance, whilst others require only members of certain committees, for example. An important job before a meeting is to work out who needs to be there and what role they will play in that meeting.
If there is to be a vote on a specialist topic, it would make sense to invite councillors with specific knowledge of that area to add their expertise to the debate.
Everyone should know what is required of them in any specific meeting and why they are there.
3. Approve the previous meeting minutes
Shorter meetings are beneficial to everyone. At least, using the allocated meeting time more effectively is of benefit. By approving the minutes of the previous meeting before the next meeting occurs, you save time that could be spent on productive discussion and debate. Or you simply spend less time in the meeting room.
iBabs’ meeting portal allows the administrator to share the minutes with all members between meetings on whichever device they choose to use. They can then suggest changes or approve them in the app, saving time in the following meeting.
4. List all agenda items and allocate time slots for each
Given your known goals, you can enter your necessary agenda items into the document. The next step is to consider how much time to allocate to the individual items. Bear in mind the available time and be realistic about what you can achieve in that time.
5. Prioritise agenda items
When comparing the items on the agenda, you should consider which are most important for the purposes of reaching your objectives. Prioritise these by placing them at the beginning of the meeting. That way, if you overrun, you can make sure what you have discussed is of the greatest importance to the council.
6. Assign responsibility for each agenda item
Each agenda item needs someone to own it. This is sometimes the chair, but it could also be someone with expert knowledge of the topic area. Understanding in advance what role you are to play in the meeting provides for better research and preparation, allowing the meeting to run more smoothly.
During the meeting
There are actions you should take during the meeting to gain the most out of the process for attendees and the citizens that you represent too.
1. Encourage participation and discussion
It is the chair’s job to ensure that all sides of the debate are heard, and they can facilitate this by encouraging discussion from meeting members. As well as opening the room to comments, the chair can ask questions of members who have yet to speak in order to bring their voices to the debate. The council is more representative of its members when they are vocal in a meeting situation.
2. Keep the meeting on track
Debates can lead to diversions from the topics at hand, and an effective chair will be mindful of this. They will be firm in bringing the discussion back to the agenda items in a way that makes sure the meeting continues to work towards the objectives in the allotted time.
3. Enable citizens to participate
Local government meetings are largely public, and, as you are making decisions that affect voters, it is only right that you allow for participation from citizens within the meeting. This provides the transparency and accountability that constituents desire from their representatives and allows for alternative points of view that might not otherwise be heard within the room.
When should you use a consent agenda vs regular agenda?
A consent agenda groups items for which there is already consensus or where there is no debate necessary. An example of when you would use a consent agenda is with the approval of the minutes. If councillors are all satisfied that they are correct, having seen them before the next meeting takes place, you can save time debating and move on to the next agenda item.
Is there a standard template for a municipal council meeting agenda?
There is no standard template for a council agenda, but they tend to feature many similar elements. The exact agenda you create depends on your council and the obligations upon it.
Is the municipal council meeting agenda an official record?
The agenda acts as a record of the meeting planning that took place, but the minutes are the official record of the meeting, as they report exactly what happened.
Preparation is key when it comes to creating an effective local government meeting agenda template. Being able to distribute the document in advance of the meeting, invite collaboration and adjust it easily is important so that the meeting itself takes place as smoothly as possible.
This is easy to achieve with iBabs’ meeting portal because it enables you to store your agenda and other important documents in the cloud. As soon as a change is made, all members will have an updated copy on their devices. Request a demo of iBabs and find out how it streamlines the process of council meetings right now.