No democratic representation for Geelong community

Article image - No democratic representation for Geelong community

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has expressed disappointment at the State Government seeking to remove the Geelong City Council.

Councillor Bill McArthur, MAV President said that while the Commission of Inquiry findings relating to bullying are damning, he questions whether the assessment of the council’s failure to provide good government represents grounds for dismissal.

“As a matter of principle the dismantling of a democratically elected government until 2020 will never be the preferred solution.”

Findings outlined in the report include dysfunctional leadership, deep-seated bullying, and a lack of good governance among a number of councillors and the administration.

“The MAV unequivocally supports the need for council to ensure a safe workplace for councillors and staff. The immediate focus moving forward should be on continuing the good work of the current CEO to implement changes that address the culture of bullying highlighted in the report.

“However we question whether adequate alternative options were fully explored, and sufficient support and time provided to the council to implement a change agenda following the Halliday report, before the government took this drastic action.

“The good governance test applied by the Commission raises many other challenges and opportunities for improvement of council processes and practice.

“Many of the matters identified go well beyond the current requirements of all councils under the Local Government Act. These could have been examined further as part of the government’s current review of the legislation.

“We are also concerned that the government wants to rush through changes to provide for a directly elected deputy mayor without an appropriate review of Geelong’s current mayoral and electoral structure.

“In 2011 the MAV expressed concerns about the direct election of a mayor in the absence of any research or substantive rationale. It is now timely that this model is comprehensively reviewed and appropriate consultation occurs with stakeholders, particularly the communities of Geelong.

The government is proposing to return councillors to the City of Greater Geelong in 2020, which means Geelong voters miss out on the upcoming council elections in October this year.

“Leaving the Geelong community without local democratic representation is never ideal. The people of Geelong have a democratic right to vote and be represented at the local level.

“The ballot box remains an alternative mechanism for voters to judge the findings of the report.

“It has been a difficult time for the whole Geelong community and restoring community confidence must be a priority.

“The MAV is committed to working with the council through this difficult process, and we are hopeful there will be an opportunity for council to learn from the report’s findings and deliver the best outcomes for the Geelong community.”