Residents Forum 3000 welcomes council CEO

Alison Leighton
Susan Saunders

The City of Melbourne’s (CoM’s) relatively new CEO Alison Leighton joined residents on March 7 to report on the city’s health and give us some insight into what to expect in months to come.

Before the presentation …

Introduction to Neighbourhood Portals

Rei Chin, the council’s CBD Neighbourhood Partner, introduced the latest call for input to Melbourne’s future neighbourhood plans. The CBD is one of the 10 Melbourne neighbourhoods and has its own online portal. Residents were encouraged to complete the survey by going to the Participate Melbourne website.


Victoria Police – support for residents

Victoria Police Local Area Commander for Melbourne East and North West Metro Region Inspector Dale Huntington introduced Arthur Makridis, Leading Senior Constable and Neighbourhood Policing Coordinator, Melbourne East. Residents of the CBD now have a direct contact in Victoria Police to report problems. It is important that we participate in this innovative arrangement as we will be helping the police keep the CBD safe. Even small problems should be reported as the statistics gathered help in the development of good policy and procedures.

Alison explains the role of the CoM’s executive team

Before being appointed CEO in July 2023, Alison was Acting CEO from October 2022.  She is responsible for ensuring that the decisions of the council are implemented, and its vision is delivered. She is supported in her work by a seven-member executive team who specialise in various areas of responsibility. The residents were pleased to note that the council’s general manager community and city services Rushda Halith was at the meeting interacting with residents.

An important aspect of the executive team’s role is to provide “fearless” advice to the council with accurate information and facts, that assist the council to make informed decisions for the diverse community that they serve. The executive team’s main role, however, is to implement council policy. The executive team do not formulate policy.



Alison is well qualified for her responsible position being trained as an engineer, having an MBA and leadership training through Harvard Business School. All of her professional career has been in executive positions with various Victorian councils.

How is the city going?

A few statistics:

  • Consumer spending is back to more than 2019 levels.
  • Pedestrian volume is more than in 2019 which is good news for local business.
  • International student numbers are now exceeding 2019 levels.
  • Retail vacancy is round 11.5 per cent down from 31 per cent at end of the COVID period.
  • There are 46,780 residents in the CBD with 69 per cent having been born overseas.

What are the current focus areas important to residents?

City cleaning: The CoM receives 25,000 requests for cleaning tasks per month. This is a 10 per cent reduction in public reported issues. However, there is a 32 per cent reduction in public reporting of overflowing bins.

City safety: The team is targeting unlawful begging, graffiti tagging and homelessness.  Initiatives include providing temporary accommodation, such as the Make Room project, with emphasis on wraparound services including medical, social and mental health counselling to allow enough time to transition people into better life situations.

A People’s Panel of 40 residents participated in ideas to provide more affordable housing that could relieve the homelessness problem. The panel made 11 recommendations after their deliberations.

The CoM is working closely with Victoria Police to ensure safety, quiet amenity and to ensure a healthy living environment for city residents.

Southern end of Elizabeth St: Lord Mayor Sally Capp has acknowledged that a new approach was needed to make this area – one of Melbourne’s busiest pedestrian spots given its proximity to Flinders Street Station – “safer and more welcoming”. Residents have been consulted in an endeavour to solve the problem once and for all. The main theme being to reduce motor vehicles and increase space for pedestrians. Progress implementing the May 2019 plan has been slow, however.

City Economy Advisory Committee (CEAC): The CoM has established the CEAC to bring key business, industry and stakeholder groups together to boost Melbourne’s appeal as an all-day destination. The committee will analyse the city’s economic conditions and identify opportunities for growth as well as driving visitation and demand for city businesses.


Questions from the audience clearly illustrated residents’ current most pressing issues. These are summarised here.

  • Please can the footpath be policed to ensure it is available for pedestrian use and not scooters, Uber bikes and sometimes even bicycles? One poor resident was recently clipped by an Uber bicycle’s handlebar after stepping back to avoid a scooter, right in front of her apartment entrance.
  • Planning policy to be enforced more rigidly to ensure preservation of heritage structures and community amenity through open, well-vegetated spaces.
  • Rates and taxes. Support for keeping the CoM budget under control with efficient use of funds.

Overall residents enjoyed the presentations and were grateful to be able to meet and get to know the people who make things happen in the city. It is fine to have plans and policies that people agree upon, but without good management and implementation, the reports, design, careful planning, and vision are wasted.

The general feeling of people at end of the evening was one of cautious optimism, that the problems brought on by a devasting pandemic are now being eliminated. It seems that the previously envisaged progress for the city is now beginning to happen.

Residents 3000 – next Forum 3000

The third forum for 2024 will be held at the Kelvin Club on Thursday, April 4 at 6pm. The topic is Waste and Recycling in the CBD. Details can be found on our website. •

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