Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Today, on behalf of the community, I requested the urgent intervention of the Minister for Local Government to resolve some significant issues of dysfunction within Armidale Regional Council.
In my observation, relationships within the Council including those between individual Councillors, between the governing body and the executive arm and between the council and the community – has deteriorated to the extent where the situation is irretrievable, with effective and proper governance of the council now not possible.
It is obvious to even the most casual observer that the elected body is fractured and split into two distinct ‘camps’ who have been unable to resolve their differences.
This situation has not occurred overnight, but has progressively become worse, culminating in two recent attempts to call extraordinary meetings to terminate the General Manager’s contract of employment, the most recent of which has resulted in the Council taking action against a number of Councillors in the Land and Environment Court to prevent them from participating in a meeting to consider a motion to terminate the contract.
I fear the personal enmity and resultant bullying between individuals is permeating through the organisation and this is impacting, not just morale, but actual performance of the Council.
While all this has been taking place, the community has also been expressing its concerns. It is fair to say that confidence in the Council’s ability to provide effective and united leadership, to be a voice for the region and deliver on priorities and needs of the region at this difficult time, has been severely shaken, if not lost completely.
Therefore, with a heavy heart, I respectfully requested the Minister’s intervention in having her officials from the NSW Office of Local Government immediately commence an investigation into the conduct and governance of Armidale Regional Council.
I hope this can be expedited to ensure this untenable situation is not allowed to continue and become ‘business as usual’.
Our region and our communities expect and deserve much better from their local council.
Given my own experience in local government, I didn’t make this request to the Minister today lightly, indeed I did it reluctantly.
I had hoped Council would have been able to resolve its internal differences and get back to focussing on and working together for the community, but I am now of the view that is not possible.
I expect to hear back from the Minister soon.