Council staffing under review

BEING a manager was different to doing work, acting general manager Mark Eady said in response to a question about staffing levels during last week’s Derwent Valley Council meeting. Molesworth resident Diane Cowburn had drawn attention to  the council now having 53 full-time-equivalent employees, including two positions that were described as temporary when they were filled about two years ago.

“Two temporary appointments were made independently by the general manager early in his tenure in order to assist him,” Mrs Cowburn said during public question time at the start of the council meeting. “These positions were not advertised at the time. Those positions are remaining and I suggest ‘temporary’ is an inaccurate description,” she said.

Mrs Cowburn said the council now had five more staff than when general manager Greg Winton was appointed three years ago. This included two executive managers, a communications officer and the two short-term roles of systems manager and engineer.

“Are the temporary positions to be advertised, how long does a temporary appointment last, and what are the specifics of these roles? My comment is that we now have sufficient senior management personnel to fulfill all of the roles without having to pay for an extra two people,” Mrs Cowburn said.

Speaking from the chair, deputy mayor Ben Shaw said the same issue had been raised by several councillors. “So the question has actually been asked and hasn’t actually been answered to the satisfaction of some councillors,” Cr Shaw said.

Cr Shaw said the general manager was away on leave and he wasn’t sure if the acting general manager would have an answer for Mrs Cowburn, Mr Eady said he would have to take the question on notice, party because he was new to the council and did not know why the short-term jobs had not been advertised, and party because the council’s staffing levels were under review.

“In terms of council’s current capacity to discharge the functions of the council with these new positions on board … I’m actually drafting a document at the moment for the councillors to consider which is a comprehensive review of the state of the council,” he said.  “I’ll be making recommendations to council about its current capacity to actually … do the bare minimum. The unfortunate thing with councils is it doesn’t matter whether you’re this council here, Derwent Valley Council, with the amount of staff you’re talking about, or my previous council which had 2200 employees. The breadth of the work that a council has got to do is the same.”

Mrs Cowburn said she accepted that Mr Eady could not answer for Mr Winton in regard to how temporary was temporary. “But I would expect that those newly-appointed positions, including your position, would be able to facilitate all of the roles that the two temporary people were fulfilling,” Mrs Cowburn said.

Mr Eady was quick to respond: “I can assure you management is a different skill to doing work and I already pick up a lot more work than a manager would normally do, because running a place is a job in itself. But as I say, that requires a more developed answer. I’d almost need to sit with you for three hours with a whiteboard to go through and give you a full and complete answer to be fair,” he said.

Cr Shaw said the report into the state of the council would be made public when completed. “That hopefully might answer a few of your questions and finalise some of those positions,” he said. Mr Eady said the council administration was “more than happy to be transparent about that and put it out there with the reasons behind that.”

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