Wynne suspends Brimbank Council

By Rob O’Brien
Brimbank City Council has been suspended with administrators appointed to take over until November 2012, the Minister for Local Government, Richard Wynne has announced.

Wynne said the second report from Local Government Inspector Bill Scales, who was appointed following the Ombudsman’s report into the council in May, showed a failure of councillors to reform their practices and address issues of probity and misconduct.

“In the interests of good governance for the people of Brimbank and on advice from the Local Government Inspector, the State Government has decided to suspend Brimbank City Council and will move to dismiss the council until the next local government elections in November 2012,” Wynne said.

“Unfortunately, the Government has been left with no choice, given that Mr Scales has found that councillors have fundamentally failed to correct poor practices and issues of probity and misconduct.

“Sacking a council is a very serious step and one this Government does not take lightly. Our Government has only dismissed one other council – Glen Eira City Council, in 2005, for a failure of good governance.

“It is clear however, the new councillors are either unwilling or unable to accept that their role is to represent their local community and that their behaviour needs to change dramatically.

“I said clearly when I appointed Mr Scales the council were on notice and if we did not see real cultural change at Brimbank we would take action. We are taking action today to restore leadership and good governance for the people of Brimbank.”

The report from Scales found a continuation of “the very same poor practices” that led to the Ombudsman’s investigation. Scales recommended the council be removed.

Wynne said he appointed Mr Scales in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the new council be given an opportunity to govern effectively and appropriately.

“It was clear to this Government and to the people of Brimbank the council had to urgently repair the systemic failures of governance, which had robbed the community of good local government."

According to the Scales’ report the council had not addressed the behavioural and cultural issues highlighted by the Ombudsman. Issues raised included:

•    An attempt by a councillor to inappropriately challenge the legitimate issuing of a parking fine;
•    The leaking of confidential information;
•    Systemic misconduct of councillors; and
•    An attempt at undue influence of councillors by an outside organisation.

Wynne said the suspension had immediate effect and Scales would act as interim administrator until legislation to dismiss the council was passed.

“The suspension is effective immediately and runs for a maximum of a year. We will introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to dismiss the council until the next scheduled local government elections in November 2012. Once this is passed, Mr Scales will be replaced by a panel of three administrators,” he said.

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