Seven of Clarence Valley’s nine councillors have endorsed the findings of the council’s performance review committee.
They resolved to “congratulate the General Manager [Scott Greensill] on his valued, commendable achievement of overall good performance where standards are constantly being met and sometimes exceeded throughout the year, and thank him for his efforts in doing so” at last week’s council meeting.
Councillors also endorsed the minutes of the review committee’s meeting, which included the adoption of “recommendations 1 to 4 contained therein”; however, those recommendations are confidential and will not be shared with the public.
Councillor Andrew Baker took a stand against the wording of the resolution.
During debate at the meeting, he said he could not vote in favour of mayor Richie Williamson’s recommendation as a matter of “conscience”.
He later told the Independent that the “wording of the motion was out of line” with his appraisal after he was “asked to be a part of the annual performance review”.
At the meeting, Cr Baker said he was “very concerned with any chief executive officer who could, in an answer to a question on why there were no efficiencies found in his organisation over the years, … say, ‘well, you’ve never asked for any’.”
“That doesn’t work at all for me: if we don’t have the initiative to bring suggested efficiencies to this … part time governing body …, and then essentially blame the councillors for not going through the formal process of asking, I simply couldn’t endorse this [performance review].”
Councillor Baker was referring to comments made by the general manager at an extraordinary meeting held on November 24, 2015, where councillors decided to apply for the 37 per cent special rate variation currently being considered by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
At that meeting, Mr Greensill said “we haven’t had a resolution to find [savings] in the past” as the councillors had not directed him to do so.
Councillor Karen Toms thanked local government management consultant Mike Colreavy for overseeing the performance review committee’s proceedings, however, she concurred with Cr Baker’s view.
“I don’t think the general manager deserves to be congratulated,” she said.
She elaborated on Cr Baker’s comments, saying that the adjustment from a total 45 per cent rate hike over five years to 37 per cent, adopted at the November meeting, had resulted in the general manager “all of a sudden finding efficiency savings” to make up for the $7.465million shortfall.
“The answer we got [from the general manager] was just not good enough,” she said.
Cr Toms said there were “other reasons I won’t go into”, upon which she based her criticism.
The mayor defended his motion, the general manager’s performance and the words that were ultimately supported by each of six other councillors, in his right of reply.
No other councillors spoke on the matter.
The mayor said he had to “bring to account a couple of comments that are unrelated to this item”.
“Councillors who would have an understanding of our budgetary process would also understand that this council has had an efficiency dividend in the last three budgets that I can recall; which would total millions of dollars.
“…I cannot in all conscience let those remarks [by councillors Baker and Toms] go unchecked because, in my view, there are some inaccuracies contained within those comments that I believe wouldn’t withstand any scrutiny.
“However, I do … congratulate the general manager for his performance.
“We are reshaping Clarence Valley Council.
“It’s bloody tough work … there have been hard decisions made and, councillors, there are more of them to make.
“…The general manager has ably led the executive team and I congratulate them, also, on their performance.
“…This council will indeed meet the [Fit for the Future] benchmarks set by TCorp.
“…The elected body has taken policy decisions to do that and the general manager has been carrying out his duties.
“…I hope the council … will … note today the achievements that have been made … with regards to the overall good performance of the general manager
The mayor thanked Mr Colreavy for his “professional” oversight of the process, councillors Simmons, Lysaught and Howe, who sat on the panel, and the rest of his colleagues for “their input into the review”.