The Devonport City Council has adopted a list of seven new measures to be more open and transparent in its dealings and limit what happens behind closed doors. Council general manager Matthew Atkins said the council had always met its statutory obligations regarding its reporting and being open and transparent. However, Mr Atkins said with this decision, the council was motivated by "a real desire to go above and beyond that." "The council is looking at ways it can do more than it is required to do," Mr Atkins said. It comes after ratepayers critical of decisions made behind closed doors to do with the Living City project called on the council to limit what it discussed during confidential meeting sessions. Suggestions to improve the council's governance practices were raised by Bob Vellacott, Malcolm Gardam, and Graeme Nevin at the annual meeting in December. The suggestions were then taken to two closed council workshops for discussion by the councillors before being adopted at Monday's meeting. Mr Vellacott said it was a step in the right direction. "There's an old saying, 'councillors who go behind closed doors generally do so to hide their incompetence, or they have something to hide," he said. "We welcome this (decision to be more transparent), but some of the old guard and a couple of the new ones seemed to be reluctant about it at Monday's council meeting," he said. "This is the result of more than four years of asking questions, and hopefully, things will improve, particularly regarding commercial in confidence issues." Mr Vellacott said he welcomed the council's adoption of a commercial leasing policy with provisions to minimise the use of confidentiality clauses, limiting the council's disclosure rights. "The council is not Devonport City Council Pty Ltd. Council business except on very rare occasions should be dealt with openly and transparently, and hopefully, this is a cultural shift." Malcolm Gardam commended Councillors Leigh Murphy, John Alexiou, and Alison Jarman for making comments in public in support of the changes. "On the surface, one could believe that ratepayers can expect to see improved openness and transparency from the council," Mr Gardam said. IN OTHER NEWS: However, he said it remained to be seen if that was the case. "It has taken hundreds of questions from concerned ratepayers and (ex-councillor) Tammy Milne spilling the beans on Providore Place to get to this," Mr Gardam said. He said what the council passed indicated the council was adopting a policy to define sound governance principles. However, he said the Good Governance Guide for Local Government in Tasmania already existed, and it said: "good governance follows a transparent and accountable decision-making process." Mr Gardam said he questioned if everyone at the council got that. "If the council's response to my question does DCC support the submission from LGAT in that the eight good governance principles remain, as essentially unenforceable guidelines, and not be legislated within the Local Government Act and linked to the behaviours in the councillors' code of conduct remains as a `we don't have a position on that,' then there is still a long way to go with the old guard councillors and a couple of new ones," Mr Gardam said. Why not pick up a subscription to The Advocate? Sign up here.