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NEWSLETTER 23 MARCH 2011

REVIEW OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL MUST BE THOROUGH AND CONVINCING

From a wide variety of disappointing experiences, ERA supporters are drawn together by one conclusion; something must be done about Eurobodalla Shire Council. Even the distant Minister for Local Government reluctantly agrees. So does our State Member, most Councillors and more than a few Council staff.

BUT WHAT MUST BE DONE?

Causes of dissatisfaction must be identified before they can be resolved. We all have opinions and distrust is evident. Public confidence will not be restored without an objective review conducted by an independent, competent party.

TOO MANY COMPLAINTS ‘spill over’ from Council’s administration:-

. Council’s staff have complex laws and policies to administer. Decisions they must make and the advice they give can be expected to sometimes be unwelcome, argued and challenged. Occasionally they will be wrong [we are all human].

. Sound management would ensure staff are well trained, that decisions are explained and that disputed decisions are objectively reviewed. Erroneous decisions or advice should be rectified promptly and safeguards adopted to avoid repetition. Where complaints stem from deficiencies or inconsistencies in Council decisions or policies, managers have a responsibility to draw these to the attention of Councillors, with recommendations.

. So, are our managers managing? Can we be sure they are suitably qualified and capable of performing at the level required to meet the modern needs of a complex, progressive local government authority? This includes the capacity to lead, motivate, train and develop supporting staff to provide necessary services at a consistently high level.

. There are aspersions that staff morale is low, that many staff are not utilised gainfully, that management has not won respect and that the community might expect higher performing candidates for the salaries on offer.

. Until action is taken to dispel or rectify these impressions it is unlikely that confidence and pride will be restored.

. It is the responsibility of Councillors to arrange for the delivery of services to be reviewed periodically. The level of deterioration now requires independent, professional assistance.

RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO VOICE DISAPPOINTMENT, despite the responsibility of Councillors to represent their interests:-

. Far too many residents describe disappointing or unfair experiences and dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in some decisions. Many more residents remain dissatisfied but are be unable or unwilling to express their views to ERA.

. Councillors are elected to represent residents’ interests and to facilitate communication between the community and Council. A small percentage of residents might never be mollified. But many are turning to ERA with a widespread view that Councillors lack authority to influence better outcomes.

. Too frequently, Councillors appear to make or condone ill-informed decisions, with deceptive secrecy that avoids community engagement or scrutiny.

. As a group Councillors appear too uncoordinated to establish priorities and targets for the Shire’s administration, or [as Section 232 of the Local Government Act requires] direct and control the affairs of Council, participate in optimum allocation of Council’s resources for the benefit of the area, play a key role in creating and reviewing policies, review the performance of Council and its delivery of services.

. Councillors and ratepayers have much to benefit from a thorough review of Council’s operation that will identify scope, and provide guidance, for improved practices.

ALL OF US WANT FORWARD LOOKING, EFFICIENT AND RESPONSIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

This can only be achieved with sound leadership, astute Councillors and capable management. An external review should assist Councillors to assert the priorities and performance required from Council’s administration. A review of administration and staffing is also clearly needed. But it can only be conducted, sensibly, after the primary review indicates where Council needs to concentrate, or perhaps reduce, its resources.

WHAT IS COUNCIL DOING?

Despite the decision of Council on 30 March 2010 to identify and agree efficiency and effectiveness review options, the Mayor, Councillors and General Manager have failed to initiate the independent, external review that is so clearly required. Dysfunction and disarray in Council is highlighted by the Recision Motion put by Clrs. Morton, Pollock and Dance to that previously carried for an externally conducted inquiry. Council’s acceptance of this Motion nonetheless obliges it to proceed with planning for the review. Allowing a year of delay and diversion means Councillors have yet to demonstrate the leadership, the authority and the genuine desire to make improvements.

WHERE IS ERA?

ERA rejects the idea that the General Manager should control an inquiry into his own organisation. ERA also rejects, as a further waste of money, engagement of Blackadder to consult on staffing and organisational matters before the overall scope of Council activities has been reviewed or accepted by the community. ERA fears ill-conceived piecemeal reviews conducted by the General Manager and Local Government "Specialists" will rubber stamp existing practices and cultures at considerable cost with no benefit. ERA insists investigations and reports should be conducted by an independent, hard-nosed business consultant who will focus on tangible results rather than boxes ticked.

ERA continues to communicate these views to the Mayor and Councillors.

 

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