You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover!
Council’s application to IPART included a series of what can only be described as ‘beautiful’ supporting documents which became available to the public for final scrutiny 4 days before Council met to sign off on the Special Rate Variation (SRV) application, hardly a reasonable review period for even the best of speed readers. [One ratepayer was refused access to the micromex survey data by council, a subject for consideration in a later article]. It begs the questions ‘did the councillors themselves have time to read all the material, digest it and confirm that it all stacked up, and was the 42.5% increase in rates appropriate for the ratepayers in terms of capacity to pay and program priority? But more than that did the public have time to digest what was given to them at the last moment and compare that information with earlier information provided to them. And did the public have time to access material which was not readily available to them but which was used by council in its reporting process? And how could the council consult with the community about the proposed SRV application when things were still in a state of flux? As indicated earlier, council consulted with the community in early December 2013 about the proposed SRV when it had yet to complete its documentation.
Council met on the 3rd of January 2014 to put some SRV documents out for public scrutiny yet it based it decision about acceptance of its proposal on data collected in early December 2013. How could the community have made an informed decision when it didn’t have all the facts before it?
For VWD, short time frames for public review of government documentation nearly always beg questions about accuracy, consistency, validity and reliability of material, but most importantly what changes have occurred from previous drafts at the last moment for reasons which are not always ‘obvious’ or ‘transparent’ or explained?
Musical Chairs for Managers: Has the Music Stopped?!
One of those beautiful supporting documents for the SRV was Council’s Delivery Program.
There had been earlier drafts of this document which set out Council’s take on its Community Strategic Planning Priorities: May and June 2013.
What’s interesting about the Delivery Program endorsed by Richmond Valley Council on the 18th of February 2014 is that while “Manager Economic Development” is listed against 47 “Action Programs” some of which plug into the SRV application, it would appear that council has no-one doing that job:
There is NO “Manager Economic Development” shown in the list from the same Delivery Program document:
So who is minding the shop for the 47 Manager Economic Development programs, and what has happened to the previous incumbent in this position appointed by the General Manager in 2012? Is he still working for council in another role or is he still working for council at all? Some of the money from the proposed SRV is to support the actions of the Manager Economic Development :
The June 2013 version of the document shows ‘Manager Economic Development’ in the Office of the General Manager.
The down-sizing of Council’s Managers from 13 to 8 is quite a sizeable restructure in a 7 month period. While we know that at least one of the individuals shown in the June 2013 list has retired, what’s happened to the other 4? Have any of them been declared redundant? If so, how much has this cost Council and what is the justification for the redundancy? Was the Manager Economic Development one of those?
And do those managers shown at 18 February 2014 still occupy those position or have there been further changes including demotions?
While Council has built in a disclaimer which states “It should be noted that the responsibility areas may change as actions/projects are progressed”, such large changes in the organisation in such a short time beg questions about ‘what’s really happening behind the scenes?’
When the music stops next time will there be sufficient ‘manager position chairs’ and what are the reasons for the changes?
And how much are all these changes costing ratepayers particularly in terms of loss of productivity while the managers discover how to manage their new roles?
It is important to remember that personnel matters are the responsibility of the General Manager and not councillors.
It is the view of VWD that IPART needs to raise questions about how well prepared council is to deliver the plans it proposes from the 42.5% increase should it be approved, and should council be getting its own house in order before making such a request? It seems as though council is still in a ‘state of flux’.
Like it or not, ‘the devil is in the detail’. You would have thought council had learned that by now! And there’s more.
But in the meantime VWD would like some answers!