What we think – Ballarat needs independent leadership

BALLARAT City Council needs independent leadership.

The ascension of mayor Joshua Morris as a Liberal Party candidate for Western Victoria has significant structural and perceptual implications for Ballarat City Council.

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It most likely means Ballarat will have its third mayor in less than 12 months.

It reiterates that the rhetoric constantly spouted by some current councillors against retorts of politics-first representation are disingenuous.

It will ingrain, in the lead-up to one of the most important elections in determining Ballarat's immediate future, the deep distrust that the party currently leading the state polls has for the city's most influential advocacy body.

Less than 100 days out from a state election where Ballarat needs bipartisan support for a series of major projects to drive the future of our city, our council is being further divided by politics and real question marks exist over its immediate leadership. That's not the best situation for our city.

Cr Morris has been a capable and proactive mayor of Ballarat. It's no surprise that he was seen as the preferred candidate for election given his performance and his closeness to the current government leadership. He will no doubt be a great advocate for our city should he be, as is most likely, elected.

However, the perception that he and other members of the council were too close to state and federal political party influences has been damaging to the public observations of the current council.

It's not just the Liberal Party-aligned councillors who have been outed. Cr Des Hudson was accused of furthering Labor political causes when embroiled in dispute over the vote which saw Cr Morris elected as mayor. Cr Belinda Coates, who maybe takes the moral high ground in being most outwardly and transparently Green, has nevertheless used the council chamber to advocate hard left positions on issues well beyond the Ballarat council jurisdiction.

It's naive to think that politics has never played a role at council level. It always has and always will. The difference is previous councils have managed, at least outwardly, to be seen as always putting the projects and people of Ballarat first.

If nothing else, the next mayor must be seen as independent and capable of bringing the conversation back to the many important issues impacting residents on a local level if the council is to turn around current public perceptions.

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