25 SEPTEMBER 2010
We realize that you have
not heard from us in a little while - but that doesn’t mean
we have not been busy following up Council affairs.
You may recall that the Association made a presentation (details
on our website) at a Workshop convened by the Council on 28 July.
The purpose was to allow community presenters the opportunity to
pass on their ideas to Council and staff members. The Workshop was
subsequently followed up on 22 September - allowing Councillors
to respond to the observations and proposals put to them at the
July assembly. Councillors had been asked to consider presenters’
proposals which they believed had merit and could perhaps be adopted.
Councillors Morton and Kowal were absent.
A suggestion that a record of public forum presentations and questions
be kept was adopted and Councillor Vardon argued for public access
to all Council Workshops - this was also adopted subject to the
protection of confidential information.
Councillor Scobie took
up the proposal for communities to be consulted on new projects
earlier in the process than is current practice. G.M. Anderson agreed
with this approach and said it would be trialled in plans for the
Hanging Rock precinct.
Council staff Sharpe
and Enders spoke in favour of the 20 year forward planning process
(Eurobodalla 2030 Community Reference Group). Councillors were skeptical
and members of the public mainly opposed - generally on the grounds
that if you can’t plan the next 5 years, what hope is there
to be able to plan the next 20?
The ERA call for implementation
of an externally conducted review of Council affairs was discussed.
Councillor Vardon supported the proposal and suggested formation
of a committee to develop the Terms of Reference for such a review.
No Councillor objected, but none spoke in favour either. G.M. Anderson
indicated that he had already investigated consultants for internal
review of Transport Operations, Organisational Structure and Business
Operations. He indicated that as funds became available they would
be applied to Audit Committee for efficiency review and his assessment
of review priorities.
IN THE MEANTIME
Members of the ERA Management Group met with the Mayor and General
Manager of Council at Mogo on 3 September. The Meeting was facilitated
by State Member, Andrew Constance, who attended and observed the
Meeting. Mayor Thomson was handed a sheet containing various concerns
of the ERA in relation to areas it was thought that Mayoral performance
could be enhanced and noting that the ERA would prefer to work with,
rather than against, the Council.
Essentially, ERA came
away from the meeting feeling that the Mayor had swept aside the
concerns put before him and has no intention of changing his attitudes
or mode of operation, although at the conclusion both he and the
G.M. said that their doors were always open for further discussion.
The General Manager,
Paul Anderson, committed to wanting similar outcomes to ERA, for
example: smaller staff numbers, efficient productive staff and agreed
to the principle of an Independent External Review. Typically, he
described a staff position left vacant for two years as a demonstration
of holding staff replacement. But there was no thought as to whether
the position should exist at all. Then he mentioned the existence
of an “external review” of Council Transport. This is
a problem on two counts. Firstly, it represents a piecemeal approach
to what is an overall problem. Looking at one area in isolation,
or several areas in isolation, does not provide the necessary overview
of operations. Secondly, such a review remains essentially an “internal”
review, with the G.M. having control over content, outcomes and
It was also most interesting
to hear the Mayor give total and unreserved praise of the G.M’s
qualifications, performance and positive contribution to the management
of Council affairs.
EUROBODALLA 2030 PLANNING
The ERA decided not to make a commitment to the Community Reference
Group because a significant budget was assigned to this exercise
at a time when finances are under a lot of pressure. We gave the
following reasons for non-participation:
The dysfunctional state
of Council’s organization and the parlous financial position
of Council. We see time spent on 20 year strategies as a diversion
from the immediate need to significantly improve the day-to-day
management of Council affairs.
Whilst we agree with the intent of medium/long-term planning, our
experience suggests that pressing decisions will be deferred pending
the outcome of this 18-month exercise.
After years of similar planning, the Shire does not have an approved
Local Environment Plan, a sustainable budget, a workable plan for
the urban consolidation of Shire towns, nor an affordable approach
to the maintenance and replacement of core assets.
Such community planning is no substitute for civic leadership, which
is seen to be lacking in present circumstances.
In addition, there currently
exists a Federally sponsored South Coast Regional Development Committee,
whose function is to address longer term planning matters. The major
focus of this Committee is to plan long-term for the region and
aims to provide infrastructure led economic development and job
creation, integration of high speed broadband into the area, improved
transport and affordable clean energy, education and training, attractive
and affordable lifestyle including access to first-class health
and aged care facilities and retaining the unique natural environment.
So we question what value
is to be gained by Eurobodalla Council becoming involved in a $150,000
duplication of the existing efforts of the South Coast Region Group.
At this point in time the General Manager appears to be promoting
his own agenda and control over outcomes. While paying lip-service
to the notion of an independent external overview, he is proceeding
with contracting consultants for piecemeal internal reviews and
simultaneously advertising employment positions to cost at least
$750,000 p.a. This is happening at a time when community services
are being cut because of the supposed $1m shortfall in rate income.
The General Manager’s
position is that he has no funds to cover the cost of an External
WHERE FROM HERE?
The ERA has prepared a case to justify an extensive Externally Conducted
efficiency overview of Council financial, staffing, operational
and organizational management. To carry this out will require funding,
which we hope to obtain through State and Federal Government support.
Keep checking our website
in the coming week, because we will be asking you to register your
preference on an important policy issue. It will be our objective
to have a firm plan of action in place by Mid-October 2010.