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Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay. Image; Contributed

Councillors split on GM’s pay rise and performance review

Geoff Helisma

Councillors endorsed Clarence Valley Council (CVC) general manager Ashley Lindsay’s pay increase and six-monthly performance review at last week’s March 30 council meeting.

However, councillors Greg Clancy, Debrah Novak and Karen Toms opposed the decision to award Mr Lindsay a five per cent increase to his total remuneration package (from $283,668.75 to $297,852) or support his performance review – Cr Arthur Lysaught was absent due to having to isolate as a result of the Covid outbreak in Brisbane.

See last week’s story, ‘CVC’s GM set for $14k pay rise’, for more details about the GM’s salary increase. Councillor Toms thanked Mr Lindsay “for the work he has done” managing CVC’s involvement during and after the floods, bushfires and pandemic, but pointed out that many residents are struggling as a result of those disasters.

“I cannot support this, considering the general manager will not be here when he’s on long service leave,” she said.

Councillor Andrew Baker said he was “very much so” in favour of the increase.

He said what was expected from the general manager “has risen dramatically during the term of this council and I believe that his performance has followed”.

Councillor Greg Clancy said, “Like Cr Baker I’m happy to congratulate the general manager, but I have reservations.”

Councillor Clancy said he had “reservations about the last six months”, too.

Councillor Richie Williamson also said the general manager’s job was becoming “increasingly difficult”.

“His performance in recent times has been outstanding … his remuneration package, if not the lowest on the north coast is then very near to it.”

Councillor Jason Kingsley said the general manager had “displayed exceptional leadership”.

“He’s led by example and displayed leadership to staff and community,” he said.

Councillor Kingsley compared Mr Lindsay’s management of CVC’s operational plans (since 2017) – the bulk of which scored in the 86 to 95 per cent range – with those of former GMs, most of which languished in the low to mid 80 per cent range, apart from 93 per cent achieved in 2016.

“In my opinion he has exceeded expectations,” Cr Kingsley said.

Councillor Novak said “she could not justify” the salary increase because the “community is doing it very tough … and I believe that the GM has done it in air conditioned comfort while everybody else hasn’t”.

Councillor Peter Ellem said, “you hear some unbelievable statements in this chamber”.

“I sit on the performance review committee, but I don’t think we have got the absolute best process in place,” he said.

He said he had “tried to urge restraint with this increase” among the other review panel members – councillors Simmons, Kingsley and Williamson.

“It should be said [though] that the general manager has not sought an increase,” he said, pointing out that dissenting councilors had not made any submissions opposing the salary increase.

Councillor Simmons, who tabled the mayoral minutes for the two items, said “the statement by Cr Novak – that the GM sits in an air conditioned office – is just absolutely incorrect”.

“It’s up to Councillors to determine the general manager’s remuneration [and it’s] generally within a band of remuneration that general managers of councils this size are entitled to,” he said.