Mid-way through this evening’s Council meeting – after we had discussed important items such as the new City campaign to fight WestConnex and our budget for the coming year – Councillor Kerryn Phelps resigned from our Independent team.
Councillor Phelps raised questions about my Office staffing and budget, which was surprising given she has previously told me she had all her questions answered on this matter. It’s also surprising given that she did not raise any of these questions in October last year when the Expenses Policy came to Council and in fact voted to support it going on public exhibition at the time.
What is not surprising is that this line of accusation and her resignation came just a week after I told her that I would not be supporting her bid to remain Deputy Lord Mayor.
I’ve been unhappy with her lack of understanding and support of City policies and our vision that we took to the community last election, as well as her non-attendance of important community and City events – it is fair to say we’re not on the same page when it comes to how to serve the community. When we started this term in office I committed to rotating the Deputy Lord Mayoralty around the Independent team, to provide an opportunity for other talented team members, but as this moment neared, that became a point of tension.
I often say I love the job but hate the politics – tonight we witnessed some of the worst kind of politics I have seen in the Chamber in a long time.
The fact is the budget for the Office of the Lord Mayor is publicly exhibited every year and reported on quarterly to all Councillors. Not only has the Budget remained the same this year as last year but the Office has operated with much the same staffing levels since 2010. The budget includes staff costs, civic and ceremonial events such as citizenship ceremonies and international visiting delegations in Sydney, office equipment and maintenance, administration and stationery.
I am confident about the community’s support for my work and the work of the Independent Team given that residents and businesses strongly supported my re-election late last year for an unprecedented fourth term, with a strong swing.
The Office of the Lord Mayor was established in 1991 – well before I became Lord Mayor. As the elected representative of Australia’s only global city, I am responsible for an area that generates over $110 billion in economic activity and drives nearly a quarter of the powerhouse NSW state economy.
I have never asked anyone on my team to vote in a way that compromised their beliefs. People on my team share values and a vision. What has been increasingly clear over the last six months is that Councillor Phelps does not share our values or vision.