Leadership roles assigned as council revamps meetings

By David Schout

Key portfolios for the next four years have been assigned to recently-elected City of Melbourne councillors, who have endorsed a new way to conduct meetings.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp will take over transport chair duties, an important portfolio in the next four years as the council looks to implement its Transport Strategy 2030.

Since entering Town Hall in 2018, Cr Capp has been a strong proponent of redistributing CBD space to both pedestrians and cyclists, who make the vast majority of trips within the Hoddle Grid. 

The Lord Mayor will also become the Aboriginal Melbourne chair. 

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece has retained the planning portfolio, a role he held in the previous council term (2016-2020).

Rohan Leppert will remain as his deputy, while also taking on the role of environment chair after fellow Greens councillor Cathy Oke stood down last year after 12 years in the chamber. 

Cr Leppert holds his role as heritage chair but relinquishes the arts portfolio after eight years.

Town Hall’s current longest-serving councillor, Kevin Louey, has been assigned the Business and Global Opportunities portfolio.

Once the chief of staff to former Lord Mayor John So, Cr Louey has entered his 13th year in the council chamber in 2021. 

Second term councillor Philip Le Liu has been assigned as finance chair, taking over from former Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood, who in October ran unsuccessfully against Cr Capp in the 2020 City of Melbourne election.

Cr Leppert said given its scope of responsibilities, councillors decided a portfolio structure was again the most efficient way to conduct business.

He added that the process was a harmonious one.

“At this point in the electoral cycle some councils are tearing themselves apart deciding who gets which position. We don’t do that,” he said

Remaining portfolios were largely assigned to recently-elected councillors.

Dr Olivia Ball, the second Greens councillor alongside Cr Leppert, will chair the Health, Wellbeing and Belonging portfolio. 

Roshena Campbell, who in her short time on council has been a strong advocate of a voucher program to kick-start the local economy in 2021, will lead City Activation.

Jason Chang will take the lead on Small Business, Elizabeth Doidge has been handed responsibility for Sustainable Building, Jamal Hakim will become Creative Melbourne chair, and Davydd Griffiths will lead the Education and Innovation portfolio.

At the December 15 council meeting, councillors also announced a shakeup to its decision-making framework for the next four years.

From now, Future Melbourne Committee meetings — which represent around two-thirds of all council meetings and where key decisions impacting the city are typically made — will no longer be structured in portfolio segments as featured during the previous term.

Instead, the Lord Mayor will take on the role of committee chair of all but one portfolio.

That remaining portfolio, Planning, will continue to be chaired by the Deputy Lord Mayor. 

Cr Leppert said the new system eliminated an overly-centralised decision-making process. “I am actually quite glad that we’ve done away with what I thought was becoming a little bit of a problematic conflict, where the portfolio holder was also the chair of the committee, the proponent of the motion before the committee, the media spokesperson and becoming a bit of a policy lead,” he said.

“We have to be conscious that all councillors have equal decision-making authority and responsibility. I think this model brings us back to that in two key ways; it doesn’t make the portfolio lead the chair — the Lord Mayor will be the chair.”

“Secondly, we’re seeking to a brief a whole lot of portfolios together in a way that’s going to make life as efficient as possible for the administration.”

In what was the final meeting of 2020, councillors also endorsed its latest code of conduct.

“This code of conduct represents our commitment to respectful behaviour, to setting an appropriate tone and example for the rest of the organisation, and certainly reflecting our culture,” Cr Capp said. 

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