VICTORIAN Local Government minister Jeanette Powell has been accused of sitting on the report into the governance crisis at Wangaratta Council until after the federal election on Saturday.
The claim was made by the shadow local government minister Richard Wynne, who was convinced Mrs Powell would have made an announcement on the fate of the council during Parliament this week.
Mr Wynne stopped short of calling on the minister to sack the council, but said the appointment of a monitor was a more likely scenario.
Mrs Powell has had the final report compiled by her inspector for more than two weeks and also been privy to monthly updates since his appointment in May.
“It is extraordinary that the minister is sitting on the report,” Mr Wynne said.
“What has she got to hide?
“This is a council that is clearly dysfunctional and good governance has broken down.
“The minister has no choice but to act in the interests of ratepayers.”
Wangaratta is located in the safe Liberal seat of Indi, but sitting member Sophie Mirabella is under pressure from independent Cathy McGowan.
Mrs Mirabella was critical of the former council’s rural land strategy and last week she had Victorian planning minister Matthew Guy visit the electorate to unveil revised zoning conditions.
The minister cannot sack an individual councillor and can only dismiss a council on grounds it has failed to provide good governance or acted unlawfully.
The council has passed its first budget and four-year plan since being elected last October and all monthly meetings have gone ahead.
An impasse between members of the council and senior managers has been overcome.
“What more evidence does the minister need before she acts decisively on this crisis?” Mr Wynne said.
“The obvious suspicion is the minister is playing party politics.
“She doesn’t want to act prior to the election.
“But dismissing the council is a dramatic step and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
The minister defended her handling of the situation last night.
“The shadow minister would know that in important matters such as this full and proper consideration must be given to due process,” she said.