Council Meeting Updates – March 24th – Pauline’s Comments

Pauline Rowe

Pauline Rowe

Well what can I say about March 24th meeting, it was definitely a big one. The meeting was brought forward one day due to Cllrs Hadchiti & Harle not being available on the Wednesday and there was an important issue that needed all Councillors present. There was over 200 Council staff in attendance to protest against a change in management procedures for the Council. I haven’t seen that many people at a Council meeting since the previous CEO outsourced some of council staff’s duties in 2010.

SPEAKERS  –  Firstly, there was a very impassioned speaker Pastor Tony Hoang of the Potter’s House at Green Valley. His purpose was to ask for the existing reduced Council rates to be extended for a further two years. Potter’s House provides ”Big Heart Big Vision“ a social outreach program for the youth in the community.

Pastor Tony told how his family arrived from Vietnam and settled in Cabramatta and how before finding God he spent many years in trouble with the law over drugs and how many of his family and friends had died because of drugs. Pastor Tony received resounding applause from all present at the Council Chambers. A mayoral minute to grant The Potter’s House” reduced rates for a further two years was passed unanimously.

Another 3 speakers (who were Council workers as well as rate payers) rallying against the proposed management changes to rapturous applause from the other 200 plus staff. There were a few outbursts from the audience mostly for CEO Carl Wulff to be sacked, but generally they were well behaved given the contentious issue. The overall message from the speakers was why is this happening now? Why can’t it be postponed for community consultation? There were also concerns raised that this proposal was not put out to open tender and only one company was ever considered. (This allegation was addressed on the night but further investigation is ongoing).

OUTSOURCING COUNCIL MANAGEMENT  –  By now most would have read the articles in our local papers detailing staff’s concerns with Council CEO contracting out management of Council staff to a Queensland based company called Propel Management. Propel is a company that the current CEO commissioned during his term as CEO with Ipswich Council. There is much conjecture that using this company cost Council jobs in Ipswich, this has not been substantiated to my knowledge, however, rumours are rife.

I along with other rate payers am not privy to the reasons behind this change as it has been hidden behind “Commercial in Confidence” label, and has been in the pipeline for apparently 10 months. To my understanding Councillors have been fully briefed on this management change and the majority appear to be in agreeance. Labor Councillors requested that the process be postponed until further information could be gathered which I thought on the night was fair, however, after speaking to Peter I believe the information had been previously disseminated to all involved. No doubt Peter will provide us with as much information as he can within the guidelines.

I also understand staff and union representatives have been involved in the process with assurances being given there would be no job losses and no major changes to staff, this was again reiterated on the night by Councillor Hadchiti and Peter. I must say it has been my experience over the past 40 years in business when something this dramatic happens in a workforce there are consequences, what they will be here only time will tell.

However, I believe as a rate payer we must ask these pertinent questions;

  1. What will Propel Management do and how does it affect Council?
  2. Is it a form of time management to ensure efficiency? –
  3. Is it a Quality Assurance programme?
  4. How much is it costing Council? – I think this is a very important point that needs answering
  5. How long is the contract?
  6. Will there be cost savings to counteract the cost of using this Management Company?
  7. If there are cost savings where will they come from?
  8. Is it not the role of the many Council Directors and Managers to manage their staff to achieve cost savings and ensure working efficiencies?
  9. Is it not the CEO’s role to ensure the above
  10. Will council workers lose their jobs? And if they do will Propel Management personnel replace them?

Whilst, I understand that the role of the CEO is to undertake operational matters to ensure Council’s efficiency in a timely and costly manner and Council do not have to involve the community in these matters, (especially when there are confidential matters involved), however, for the purpose of showing transparency when all is finalised in this matter a public statement to ratepayers explaining the processes would probably be beneficial.

Let me be perfectly clear here I am not against changes in workforces to ensure that organisations work more efficiently to realise their full potential and provide best practice service for their customers, and I have been personally responsible for making major work place changes in my working life, however, these have been in consultation with staff, unions, and our customers and let me state theses were all multinational companies with shareholders and not government organisations that are funded by rate payers.

There were many questions asked of Councillors that night in relation to this proposal, they are detailed on Council’s website under March draft minutes. Link here:

http://www.liverpool.nsw.gov.au/council/council-meetings

DEPUTY MAYOR  –   Councillor Gus Balloot was elected Deputy Mayor on the night and whilst I congratulate him, it was obviously a “stacked deck”. The decision was a “fait accompli” as his family was invited in before the voting and were there for photos with him when he won the vote by a majority. I believe that when one party has the majority vote these decisions are made well before the outcome.

IHAP MATTER  –  SUBDIVISION OF 1 LOT TO 6 TORRENS TITLES IN MIDDLETON GRANGE – Peter at least had a win on the night with an IHAP (Independent Hearing Assessment Panels) matter that had been previously rejected by Council much to the disgust of the proponent who was extremely frustrated with Councils toing and froing. After much research into the matter, Peter found many technical errors in Council’s reports and requested that the DA be resubmitted for approval, glad to say it was approved. All I can say here is thank goodness Peter is on the ball and actually reads IHAP and Council Reports and attends as many IHAP’s as he can so that he has firsthand knowledge when assessing these types of developments. I personally believe it should be compulsory for all Councillors to attend IHAP’s JRPP’s (Joint Regional Planning Panels) before making decisions.

SOCIAL IMPACT CONTROLS  –  Peter has been trying for the past year to amend Councils Social Impact Assessment Policy (SIA) pertaining to controversial DA’s such as Alcohol/Gambling Establishments, Brothels etc.

Peter raised a Notice of Motion (NOM) to delay public exhibition of the current SIA Policy until Council commission independent experts to review and enhance the existing policy. Also that Council writes to the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) to nominate a panel of recommended Social Impact Assessment Experts to assess Councils proposed policy.

I personally believe Peter is heading down the right path with this process. As a community we have had many controversial development applications over the past few years involving alcohol, gaming and the sex industry being approved based on planning controls versus social impacts to the community and the appointment of suitably qualified Independent assessors who are knowledgeable relating to liquor and gaming controls and the impact they have on communities. Their independent recommendations would be invaluable information for Council and Councillors to assist in decision-making for these types of DA’s.

Well done Peter keep up the good work.

ANZAC 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY – To finish on a positive note our own June & Ken Young have commenced their journey across to Gallipoli from Albany Western Australia retracing the first Anzac’s steps to attend the 100 year anniversary.

June and Ken as many of you know have been tireless workers with local RSL’s and June’s long involvement with Legacy is well-known and respected. The Legacy ladies have prepared a fabulous quilt and squares for the voyage to Anzac Cove and they will then be returned to be hung at the War Memorial at Hyde Park.

We wish June & Ken a Bon Voyage on this memorable trip and hope you have a great time, we look forward to the tale of your adventures upon your return.

For those of you who follow June on Facebook you can follow her adventures and for those who don’t I have attached a couple of pictures (Pictures to follow as soon as June and Ken return from Gallipoli).

On an additional positive note congratulations are in order to June Young being appointed the Community Representative on the Civic Advisory Committee I have no doubt June will be a valuable addition to Councils committee.

Pauline Rowe. 9th April 2015

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