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'Bring it on': Lord Mayor welcomes councillor challenge

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Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has welcomed a declared challenge from councillor Phillip Martin, who says he will run for mayor at the next election after being named in a recent report as a main cause of the organisation’s toxic culture.

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Martin confirmed this morning he would stand against Verschoor in next year’s ballot, saying “it’s the hand I feel I have been dealt”.

His decision follows a recent report pointing the finger at him as one of the main people responsible for the council’s culture woes.

The previously confidential report found the council was “dysfunctional, frustrating and aggressive”.

In a statement issued this morning, Martin said “in the absence of the announcement by any other candidate committed to replacing Lord Mayor Verschoor and her Team Adelaide group, I feel compelled to do everything I can to restore the reputation of Adelaide to that of the progressive and well managed City”.

Martin claimed the report released was only one version “while other versions have been kept secret”.

He said the Lord Mayor and the CEO had refused “to explain their role in this flawed, political process” which was “the last straw” for many of his ratepayers.

“I estimate Adelaide is on track to be close to a quarter of a billion dollars in debt by the end of 2031,” he said.

“We are also burdened by a series of continuing blunders, a culture of hiding decision-making behind closed doors and there is complete absence of a clear vision for our City in the coming decade.”

Martin said the council had “not budgeted for any new infrastructure initiatives between now and 2031”.

“At the same time, services on which our stakeholders rely have been cut to the bone to offset substantial debt the Lord Mayor and Team Adelaide have accumulated in the four years since the City of Adelaide was absolutely debt free,” he said.

“Our streets are cleaned less often, there are no parking inspectors on duty after 7pm until 8.30 the following morning most nights for the week creating a parking law of the jungle; our community centres and libraries are struggling and the maintenance of our footpaths, roads and other infrastructure is falling way below acceptable standards.

“COVID-19 is to blame for small part of it, but I will as a Lord Mayoral candidate explain how mismanaged operating budgets are at the core of this Team Adelaide made disaster.

“In the coming year I will be meeting with ratepayers and all stakeholders to talk about how we can fix the mess that the City of Adelaide has become.

“I will also be encouraging people with a desire to see the City do better and who are genuinely connected to their residential and business communities to consider standing for election.

“In fact, I urge anyone who wants to help to heal our City to contact me.”

Responding to the claims made against him in the report, Martin told InDaily: “If anyone has been offended by my questioning then I regret that but my role is to ask the hard questions.”

Councillor Anne Moran, an ally of Martin who was also criticised in the report, said she was “happy to support Phil” in his bid to become Lord Mayor.

“The report – one of many – was unfair on him and on me too,” she said.

“It’s ridiculous that we are being called the bullies.

“We are being bullied senseless on council at the moment and it’s time somebody stuck their hand up and I’m glad he has done that.

“Phil is a brave, honest, frank and fearless councillor who should not be getting this treatment.”

Responding to Martin’s announcement, Verschoor told ABC Radio this morning “bring it on”, confirming she would be running for Lord Mayor again.

She said the culture report was a confidential staff survey which “speaks for itself”.

“No staff member should have to experience what they’ve experienced over the last couple of years,” she said.

“And that is actually the crux of that report.”

Asked if there were other versions of the report that hadn’t been released, Verschoor said: “We took extensive independent legal advice and the report that’s been released is the original version of the report.”

Verschoor also defended the council’s operations, saying “this council has delivered incredibly for the ratepayers and the stakeholders of the city”.

“We have a balanced budget, we produced a long-term financial plan, we are the third most liveable city in the world and the most liveable in Australia, and we’re delivering on all of our strategic plan,” she said.

“I think we’re doing incredibly well.”

InDaily has contacted the council for further comment.

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