Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins today introduced a bill which will dismiss the Greater Geelong City Council following a three month investigation into the council’s governance, administration and culture.
Dismissal of a council by Parliament is only considered in the most serious cases of governance failure.
The Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate the Council concluded that it is substantially dysfunctional, governance and performance are well below standard and there has been a failure to provide good government to Geelong.
The Andrews Labor Government has accepted all 12 recommendations made by the Commission – including to dismiss the Council.
The Commission of Inquiry found:
- the Council is riven with conflict, unable to provide a long term vision for the city and lacking the leadership required to manage Geelong’s major economic challenges
- the Council’s leadership is dysfunctional, and includes a significant number of councillors contravening their Code of Conduct
- the Council operates in silos – both at councillor level and at senior management level – looking after sectional interests rather than the municipality as a whole
- there is a deep-seated culture of bullying within the Council and its administration, which has contributed to a lack of good governance and failure to provide a safe workplace for staff
The Commission of Inquiry was appointed in response to findings of the Workplace Culture Review conducted last year by former Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday.
Yehudi Blacher will be installed as the interim administrator before ongoing administrators can be appointed to perform the roles and functions of a council until an election is held in October 2020.
The Bill to dismiss the Council also amends the City of Greater Geelong Act 1993 to provide for a directly elected Deputy Mayor, as well as an electoral representation review to accommodate the extra role and remove single councillor wards – as recommended by the Commission.
The Deputy Mayor will strengthen support for Geelong’s directly elected Mayor and will help share the workload of the Mayor’s office.
Geelong will not be involved in this October’s council general elections, as administrators work to fix what has now been revealed as years of cultural, governance and structural problems.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins:
“This is about returning good governance to the people of Geelong and a safe working environment for council staff.”
“The people of Geelong deserve better. They deserve a council that is equipped to manage the city’s economic challenges, while ensuring it’s not left behind the rest of the state.”
“The issues contained in the Commission of Inquiry’s report are of such a serious nature that the Government has no choice but to dismiss Geelong Council.”
“It’s deeply disturbing that the council has not dealt with the Halliday Report – by failing to address the culture of bullying they have continued to put their staff at risk.”