No suspension for Blue Mountains City Council: mayor

The Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton, has decided not to suspend Blue Mountains City Council over its handling of asbestos issues.

“I am pleased to announce that the Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton MP, has made a decision to not proceed with the suspension of the elected councillors after consideration of our submission,” Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said in a statement on Friday evening, December 22.

“We thank the minister for her consideration of our submission and for her decision to not proceed with suspending the elected councillors of Blue Mountains City Council.

“Consistent with the council’s request and recommendation, the minister has foreshadowed the issuing of a Performance Improvement Order. This approach is considered to be a more targeted and effective response to the minister’s concerns, recognising the seriousness of asbestos management and reflects the council’s intention to place the safety of its staff and community at the centre of its operations and organisational culture.

“I will be making further comment on this matter in due course.

“The council reaffirms its commitment to managing asbestos as an absolute priority.”

Mayor Mark Greenhill has welcomed the minister's announcement.

Mayor Mark Greenhill has welcomed the minister's announcement.

Despite falling short of suspending council, Ms Upton  said she remains “seriously concerned that the safety of its [Blue Mountains council’s] community and work force has been compromised by inadequate processes to deal with asbestos”. 

“Councillors cannot wash their hands of the problems under their watch. Blue Mountains City Council is now facing extra oversight from the Office of Local Government as well as investigations from SafeWork and the NSW Environment Protection Authority.”

On Wednesday, December 20 council lodged a submission in response to Ms Upton’s notice of intention to suspend it that outlined the actions council is taking.

“As required by law, I have taken this submission into account. However, I still hold serious concerns about the council’s governance and management practices,” Ms Upton said.

“I am proposing to issue a Performance Improvement Order to hold the council to account and make sure it takes the necessary action to address its poor record on asbestos management.”

The council has an opportunity to make a further submission before the Performance Improvement Order can be issued. The council has until Friday, January 19 to respond to the notice.