The legislated structure of local government leaves the power balance between the elected representatives and general managers dependent on the knowledge and resolve of both parties, GMs tend to dominate in a divisive atmosphere.
The struggle between the ‘Belongil 5’ and the ‘progressives’ has been so intense in this term that councillors have virtually ignored governance (what the GM and staff are up to) which is a statutory responsibility.
As a result the GM has been able to keep them on a very short lead, and he is back for another term courtesy of all but Duncan Dey.
In this context, some matters that new entrants should turn their attention to before they are smothered by the game:
The hugely expensive, state of the art sewerage systems are starting to fail, senior management has avoided valid questions leaving inadequate responses to junior staff, this is urgent.
With a renewed contract the GM is not required to review the staff organisation, make him do it as informal staff reports indicate dysfunction and low morale.
Council committees are vital in monitoring staff performance, most have lost their effectiveness and may be in danger of closure, it is important that the finance, internal audit and wastewater and sewerage committees are retained and reconstituted.
Be wary of the recently-announced ‘settlement’ with the Belongil urgers, OK insurance covered the legal fees but did they also make a financial settlement? If so there is a precedent which will be used.
The extensive work done by earlier councils on biodiversity has taken a holiday this term, it is vital that this regains its priority.
Also look at: council vehicle control (gross misuse discovered in my time on council), small contract letting, use of consultants, employment governance and misuse of the secret Code of Conduct.
Otherwise enjoy yourselves.
Tom Tabart, Bangalow