Minister suspends democracy

Following an Inquiry into the inner Melbourne City of Darebin, the Victorian Minister for Local Government, Rob Maclellan, has suspended the elected Council and appointed an Administrator.

At the end of a 12 month period, the Administrator, Don Gillies, will make recommendations to the Minister on Darebin's fate. The Minister could then decide to reinstate the Council for the remaining nine months of its term, call an election or divide the Council among neighbouring Councils.

The Inquiry Report, released in mid May, found no evidence of illegality or corruption by the Council but alleges 'the situation is unstable', with the affairs of the City adversely affected by differences between the Council and Chief Executive Officer, Kelvin Spiller.

The Report's recommendation that an independent mediator be appointed to iron out these difficulties was rejected by the Minister, opting instead for the less popular recommendation of suspending the elected Council and appointing an Administrator.

The Minister's action has been criticised by the Municipal Association of Victoria, which believes an appointment of a mediator to work with Council and the CEO was the best option.

MAV President, Cr Noel Bates, said that the decision is a blow, not only for the people of Darebin, but Local Government generally.

"This is a slap in the face to Local Government and a substantial step backwards in terms of the reform process," he said. "It also flies in the face of the State Government's oft quoted and seldom demonstrated partnership with Local Government."