Meet your City of Melbourne councillors
Councillor Philip Le Liu
After the rigours of overseeing council’s finance, governance and risk portfolio, Councillor Philip Le Liu relaxes by walking his dog in the city streets, encountering performers as he goes.
“I love the busking. Every night is like a mini-concert and you see talent, you see students expressing themselves,” Cr Le Liu said.
“Around Swanston Street, literally every few hundred metres you have a different singalong.”
A city resident, Cr Le Liu is keenly aware of Melbourne’s thriving nightlife and the challenges that come with the benefits.
“It’s all about managing the balance because there are some business owners who have buskers playing the same thing outside their shops which is not always welcome,” he said.
Balancing the vibrant life of the city with maintaining clean and safe streets is a key element of this year’s $851 million Budget, presented by Cr Le Liu and Lord Mayor Sally Capp earlier this year.
We’re spending $61 million on city cleaning programs, CCTV cameras and initiatives such as Make Room to support Melbourne’s most vulnerable people.
Cr Le Liu said the Budget is focused on delivering services for our community today and boosting business opportunities in the city, while shaping our city for tomorrow.
A $254.4 million investment in capital works will create jobs and deliver city-shaping projects right across the city – from the Queen Victoria Market renewal and new Munro library and community hub; to the Kensington Community Aquatic and Recreation Centre and our ongoing work on roads and footpaths.
“There is support for small business and we’ve taken into account cost of living pressures and amenity for residents. We have done the best we can to limit the amount of increased costs passed on to ratepayers,” Cr Le Liu said.
Melbourne is not immune from the financial challenges and higher building costs affecting governments and organisations all over the country, he said, however, with prudent financial management, City of Melbourne is forecast to return to surplus in 2025-26.
Cr Le Liu draws on a background in financial services and consulting as well as a former small business owner in his role as portfolio lead on finance, governance and risk.
“I’m extremely lucky to have very talented and experienced people at City of Melbourne, especially the Acting CEO (Alison Leighton), the CFO (Michael Tenace) and finance, governance and risk team that provides all of us with unwavering support,” he said.
“It’s the bread and butter work, the foundation of council or any organisation, so I feel very privileged to be the person leading the Budget during this challenging time.
“The Budget takes months to develop and due to the current environment, we have to prioritise and not everything makes it in. During this process, I have personally tried to speak to as many traders, residents and visitors that I can reach to understand their needs and suffering.
“I am acutely aware there will be decisions I make that will be unpopular and we can never make everyone happy, but my job is to make the hard decisions with hopefully minimal consequences.
“For me, I always see myself as in a caretaker role among all the other custodians who have looked after the city in the past. In politics and government we often think short-term, in three or four year cycles, so for me it’s about delivering now but ensuring future council terms have options just like we did these last two terms.”
Elected in 2016, Cr Le Liu said he’d always had an interest in local government since he was young, when he was running a milk bar and had to deal with a local council that did not care about small business or their concerns.
Asked what he’s most proud of during his six years at Melbourne Town Hall, he said: “I would like to leave council better than when I joined it. I’m proud that I helped shift council’s view on certain topics such as international students from where it was before to where it is now. When I first joined they were literally just a line on a page, and there was no budget or policy-thinking.
“I am also very proud of our ‘Red Coats’ – our tourism volunteers – and I am inspired by the years of service they have provided to the city and visitors. That is why I made a promise to become one when I started and I hope I can fulfil that promise this term subject to governance rules for Councillors.”
Among the goals Cr Le Liu hopes to achieve is a more globally-recognised Melbourne.
“That’s why I’ve taken a big interest in City of Melbourne’s international engagement,” he said.
“We hadn’t had a review for many years and now we’ve been working on a draft international engagement framework. I see value in our sister city relationships and I also think now that Melbourne is the biggest city in Australia, we should be projecting ourselves to the world to attract talent and investment and having a robust international engagement policy is critical.”
Cr Le Liu also closely follows the progress of all city-shaping infrastructure projects especially the renewal of Queen Victoria Market, one of his favorite city landmarks.
“So many people rely on it being completed – the traders, the people who enjoy it,” he said.
“My family used to be stall holders in different markets across Victoria and I remember loading up the car with goods and making friends with people at the markets. I love markets as a place where people gather, and Queen Victoria Market is where you see the old Melbourne that is peerless to modern supermarkets. The people, the culture, the history that comes with it, that’s the QVM for me.”