Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, has just returned from an extended break due to a medical condition.
Before the unexpected illness, Mr Lindsay had intended to steer the next elected council until the end of 2021, after which he would take a year’s long service leave before officially retiring from Clarence Valley Council (CVC).
However, now that the election has again been postponed – until December 4 – that will not happen because Mr Lindsay intends to stick to his original plan.
GH: You’ve just returned to work after suffering a medical condition, so what are your plans now; will you be here to guide the next elected council?
AL: I had every intention of doing that but now that the elections have been postponed it’s not my intention, subject to the approval of this council.
GH: Will that be advised to councillors at the August meeting?
AL: It will more than likely be September, because my performance review is being done [this] week.
With respect to my leave and everything, I’m still planning to do that … I’ve got to look after my health a lot more than I’ve previously done; stress is something that’s probably not good for me.
GH: Tell me about the four years you’ve been at the helm, how do you feel you went?
AL: When I was appointed to the position in 2017, we set ourselves a target to achieve financial sustainability by the end of 2021 and, look, I see my job pretty much as done.
We’ve achieved the special rate variation; we’ve achieved the efficiencies, the $8.5 million that we set out to achieve, and we’ve completed the property rationalisation we went through with the depo and administration building projects.
The organisation now, I think, is about to embark on a … sort of … how can I put this? We don’t have that Fit of the Future (FFTF) thing hanging over us anymore, because we’ve achieved it.
And the long-term financial plan … indicates that the operating performance ratio is positive for all of the 10-year plan that was adopted by council in June 2021.
[For] the first couple of years it’s marginal, but as we move out [into] the longer periods, [towards] the end of the [period], the ratio improves significantly, out to 8.5 percent; [though] we still have a lot of work to do with our asset management
The new corporate system that went live on July 1 has made a huge difference to how the outdoor staff operate … it’s all electronic; they all have work orders and it’s all linked to the assets that we’re working on.
We’ve got one central point for the asset data … the foundations are in place to take the organisation forward.
With the structural [staffing] changes, we’ve got a manager [of] environment regulatory services and we’ve got a greater focus on climate change and how council’s going to address that.
With the new manager [of] strategic infrastructure, we’re going to focus on upfront planning [and] better long-term planning for our capital works program and our project delivery program.
We’ve made a lot of changes in the last six months
GH: With your reference to the Fit for the Future ratios, have I understood you correctly; that the benchmarks that CVC has not yet met, will be achieved within the 10 year-plan?
AL: We pretty much meet all of the financial ratios, other than the asset management ratio.
The required FFTF asset management ratio benchmark is (greater than) >1.0, however CVC forecasts this to remains at 1.01 for the entire 10-year period.
Mr Lindsay said that the ‘Own Source Revenue Ratio’ was problematic, too, “because we’ve got so much grant funding coming in”.
“We’re supposed to be 60 per cent of our own source revenue,” he said.
The resourcing strategy states CVC’s estimated 21/22 own source ratio is 57.98 per cent; in 2022/23 it is 59.66 per cent and each subsequent year over the 10-year period it exceeds 70 per cent.