Northern Beaches execs go west.
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The game of management musical chairs has gathered pace recently and many of those parachuting belatedly into the top jobs have been from NSW Premier Mike Baird’s Northern Beaches stomping ground. Rik Hart became the latest (interim) General Manager of Sydney’s fledging Inner West Council last week after respected GM Vanessa Chan resigned. Hart spent ten years as one of the state’s highest paid GMs during his tenure at Warringah Council before the council merged with Pittwater and Manly and he was appointed Deputy GM of the new Northern Beaches Council, which turned out to be a brief gig. Chan’s reasons for resigning have been kept on the down-low, although she cited “personal reasons” but bringing three councils together while keeping the new council’s daily operations going and dealing with fierce public hostility to the merger would not have been an easy task. Chan was previously GM at Ashfield Council and had notched up more than 15 years working in local government. The inner-west merger between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils has already claimed the scalps of Leichhardt GM Peter Head and Marrickville’s Brian Barrett, who both quit rather than take on a deputy GM role. A slew of other senior staff joined them in walking out the door, including Leichhardt’s Director of Corporate Services Matthew Phillips; Marrickville’s Director of Planning and Environment Tim Moore; Director of Infrastructure Services Neil Strickland and Director of Corporate Services Steve Kludass. The freshly minted Northern Beaches Council has haemorrhaged senior staff since the merger between Pittwater, Manly and Warringah was pushed through in May. The mass exit is unsurprising given the council was top heavy at its inception, with an administrator, interim general manager and eight deputies. Henry Wong quit as Deputy GM and ended up as Strathfield Council’s acting GM after spending years in the same role at Manly Council. Other senior managers dropped in from the Northern Beaches and scattered further afield include former Warringah Council Deputy General Manager Malcolm Ryan, who left for Western Sydney to take up a job as GM at Cumberland Council – an amalgam of parts of Auburn, Holroyd and Parramatta local government areas, a contract which runs until March 2018. Deputy GM Melinda Hewitt (previously Pittwater Council’s Deputy GM) left Northern Beaches Council in August after seven years on the peninsula, as did former deputy Stephen Clements. CEO at Local Government Professionals Australian NSW, Annalisa Haskell said some senior managers left before they lost their jobs or had to work in a new set up they did not like under a merged council. “There are people going everywhere,” Haskell said. She said that movement at the top was “inevitable” following council mergers, particularly because merged councils would be creating a “new order”, which may jar with established staff. “The leadership needs to establish a new organisation and that can be challenging if you have got the incumbents there. Change is always difficult. In any organisation there is a positive and negative.” The situation had the potential to create conflict between general managers and their deputies, most of whom had served as GMs before the mergers. Instability at the top has also affected those councils threatened with amalgamation but who have not yet merged. Their respective general managers are well aware that their necks are on the guillotine. Arthur Kyron left his GM post at Waverley Council in April, citing the uncertainty created by mergers as the reason for his resignation. A proposal to merge Waverley, Randwick and Woollahra is still on the table, with Woollahra resisting. One interim GM would be appointed to oversee the transition. Cabonne Council lost General Manager Andrew Hopkins in August after four years in the job after Hopkins said he had to think of his family and career while the merger between Cabonne, Blayney and Orange was still going through the courts. Strathfield Council is on its fifth Acting General Manager (Henry Wong) since its long-serving General Manager David Backhouse walked out the door in February. The council remains locked in a court battle resisting the government’s proposal to merge it with Canada Bay and Burwood Councils. Local government veteran Backhouse quit Strathfield Council after 30 years, ten spent as GM. Two other senior staff quit too: Corporate Affairs Director Neale Redman and Head of Planning David Hazaldene. But their departures may not have been solely precipitated by amalgamations. An October 2015 Office of Local Government investigation found that Strathfield Council spent almost $900,000 on legal services and advice from International Property Group over a four-year period and concluded that it had little to show for it. The investigation identified ‘systemic deficiencies’ and failures in administration and slapped a performance improvement order on the council. Not even the lower north shore has proved a safe haven for general managers. The state government’s proposal to merge Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils is likely to have created a sense of unease among the people who work there. Mosman’s GM Veronica Lee chucked in her job in August and left to become Executive Director of Corporate Service at the NSW Office of Sport. North Sydney GM Warwick Winn jumped ship for Manningham Council in suburban Melbourne in April. President of Local Government NSW Keith Rhoades said he was aware of a great deal of movement at senior level within councils, much of it due to the uncertainty created by mergers. “They’ve got to think about their families and their futures and their careers, if there’s a position come up that might be more secure for them. Job security is something to be treasured these days,” Rhoades said. Haskell agreed: “When you’re in a state of unknown it’s always hard so I guess some people are changing to make active decisions about their careers. I think you would see more movement there just because of the uncertainty.” Some managers have left councils under threat of merging for those that have already gone through the process. Haskell said: “there are opportunities coming up in merged councils for people who may be want surety.” Lee Furness hotfooted it out of the doors as Director of Corporate Policy at Shellharbour Council (slated to merge with Wollongong) this month to become Executive Director at Hilltops Council. Haskell said the massive personnel changes presented both opportunities and dangers. There was a possibility the sector could lose skills and corporate memory but she said this was part of a wider trend with the retirement of baby boomers at senior level. Another fear was that the sector could become fragmented into three: councils where there had been no change, amalgamated councils and those councils which might be merged. “Although there were lots of little councils before it was quite cohesive,” she said. “It feels a little bit more fragmented at the moment. We have people who are not changing that are stable, groups that are waiting and people who have changed. It’s very abnormal at the moment.” Haskell said councils were stronger when they connected and shared best practice. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Musical chairs at the top for NSW local councils since mergers [post_excerpt] => Northern Beaches execs go west. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => musical-chairs-top-nsw-local-councils-since-mergers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:46:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:46:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25064 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23640 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:43:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:43:33 [post_content] => One year on and Human Services clients are still tearing their hair out in frustration over the Department’s dysfunctional, bug-ridden mobile apps. According to user reviews, the three main apps -- Express Plus Centrelink, Express Plus Medicare and Express Plus Child Support -- are still giving users headaches and holding up benefit payments and Medicare claims. Government News covered this sorry state of affairs in March last year and it appears few improvements have been made over the last 12 months. The same problems continue to occur and many customers remain disenchanted. Apps designed to save time for customers and DHS staff end up driving people to despair and into their nearest DHS office or phone queue, twice as frustrated as before. Express Plus Centrelink The Centrelink app was probably the most complained about of the three apps, with many reviewers hitting their caps lock and exclamation marks to vent their spleen. It is also probably the most heavily used, by students, job seekers, seniors and families to update family income estimates, report wages and update study details. The most frequently mentioned gripes - using only current reviews from February to April 2016 - were:
- Log-in problems
- Long loading times
- Difficulties reporting earnings or hours or updating personal details
- Bugs in the registration screen, where users could not see the whole password they entered (Tip: if your password is longer than 8 characters keep typing then hit submit)
- Frequent crashing
- Poor layout
- No notices about maintenance or outages
Councils hit backLocal Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak representative body for councils in the state, is suspicious of the bid to parachute-in financial controllers as the Minister sees fit, cautioning some of the state government’s financial assessment methods simply lack credibility. “Many of these moves seem designed to establish new avenues for central oversight and control, rather than recognising that local government is an autonomous, elected sphere of government,” said LGNSW President Keith Rhoades. “There needs to be agreed parameters around the Government appointing a financial controller, and objective measures of "poorly performing" or "high financial sustainability risk" need to be established. Lack of specificity could allow the Government to apply the same discredited methods used to declare many NSW councils "not fit for the future," Cllr Rhoades said. City of Sydney Councillor Ed Mandla, a Liberal, also had reservations as the the efficacy of the new laws. "Surely the best oversight for council books is the ballot box," Cllr Mandla told Government News. [quote]"The real problem for for Councillors is if they have a problem with the GM (general manager) they have to tell the mayor and if they have a problem with the mayor they have to tell the GM — what if they are in cahoots?"[/quote]
Questionable TimingThe latest laws are the second major tranche of legislation to hit this week, with another bill dealing with the donations and the pecuniary interests of councillors – the Local Government and Elections Legislation Amendment Integrity Bill – introduced on Budget night. The timing of the new legislation prompted Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley to accuse Mr Toole and Premier Baird of trying to sneak through the new laws and of reneging on a promise to introduce limits on donations, especially from property developers. “Mr Baird has broken a clear and unequivocal commitment to introduce spending and donation caps for council elections,” Mr Foley said. [quote]“Caps on donations are not much use without limits on election spending. Predatory interests will be able to spend as much as they like to capture control of a local council.”[/quote] Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose said while it was still too early to give a definitive assessment of the latest laws, people needed to remember that decisions at amalgamated councils – including ones that could flow from the new laws –were being made by government appointed administrators rather than councillors answerable to electors until September 2017. Mr Primrose also questioned whether the Baird Government was really committed to ensuring integrity in council decisions given Budget cuts meted out to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that had persistently uncovered graft and dodgy decisions. “The Premier who is behind this bill is also responsible for slashing staff at ICAC – one of the most important institutions that that maintains integrity in local government,” Mr Primrose told Parliament on Wednesday. Referencing State Budget papers, Mr Primrose said ICAC’s “corruption prevention presentations will drop from 160 to 100” and that the average time to deal with complaints would rise from 30 days to 42 days. "So much for promoting integrity measures,” Mr Primrose said.
Massive Audit Office WorkloadWhile the new legislation is yet to pass, a clear intention of the new laws is to remove the ability of councillors to appoint their own auditors and hand oversight power to the directly Auditor General. [quote]The changes mean that while the government will get a centralised and consistent view of local government finances, the Audit Office of NSW will need to compile literally hundreds of new council reports a year to perform its new duty.[/quote] A spokesperson for Mr Toole said changes brought NSW “into line with most other Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand and will provide greater consistency and certainty across the sector.” “It will also ensure that reliable financial information is available that can be used to assess councils’ performance and for benchmarking. Mr Toole’s Office also confirmed that the Auditor-General will have powers to “conduct sector-wide performance audits to identify trends and opportunities for improvement across the sector” in line with similar powers in relation to state agencies. The total cost of the audits – which are typically charged back to agencies – is still yet to be determined. A state public service source suggested that putting councils under the watch of the Auditor General was “unquestionably” the right move, but one that may not work in Macquarie Street’s favour if ministers relied on rubbery numbers. Premier Baird in February 2016 announced that Margaret Crawford, who has been Deputy Secretary at the state’s Department of Family and Community Services, would become the new Auditor General of NSW.
Key changes as flagged by the Minister for Local Government
- Appoint the Auditor-General as the auditor of all councils;
- clarify roles and responsibilities of councillors, mayors, administrators and general managers;
- introduce new guiding principles for local government;
- improve governance of councils and professional development for councillors;
- consolidate the ethical conduct obligations of councillors;
- establish the framework for strategic business planning and reporting; and
- streamline council administrative processes.
Double decker buses will soon become a common sight on Sydney’s streets once more after the New South Wales Government revealed it will commission a proper fleet of the high capacity vehicles to boost capacity on crowded runs as part of a $108 million service boost and refresh in the 2016-17 NSW Budget
Exact details on who will manufacture and how many of the new 80-seat beasts will be deployed are still to be finalised, but the firm commitment to reinstate double deckers into mainstream route service in Sydney cements major turnaround in public transport thinking 30-years after the last Leyland Atlantean made its from Wynyard to Avalon in May 1986.
While the Baird Government started trialling Bustech double deckers North-West T-Way at the end of August 2012, the pre-Budget essentially embeds the top deck vehicles as part of the city’s core fleet for the foreseeable future.
The announcement is also the second major public transport ‘back to the future’ flip for Transport for NSW after the commitment to reinstate light rail services (or heavy trams) in the city and eastern suburbs, with deployments in the West also highly likely to be commissioned.Heavy crowding and more demand than capacity during peak-hour services for Sydney buses has been a serious and persistent problem for at least the last decade, as urban renewal and residential infill push more commuters onto the bus system. The biggest headaches for authorities and commuters alike include passengers who are closer to a bus route destination often missing out on scheduled morning trips because vehicles are filled to capacity well before they get near their terminus. Efforts to deploy more, larger single decker and articulated or ‘bendy’ busses have also created knock-on effects as busses get stuck long queues to unload passengers on approaches to the city and other major centres. A big benefit of double decker buses is that even though they carry 65 per cent more passengers than regular buses – 130 people when completely full on seated and standing capacity – they only occupy the space of a single bus making it easier to cram more services into smaller areas and tighter streets. With major residential developments now replacing industrial real estate on the city fringe, authorities are looking to boost both capacity and frequency. “Thousands of Sydneysiders rely on bus travel every day to get from A to B and we know demand for services is continually increasing, particularly in growth centres in the North West and South West, as well as in inner city areas like Green Square,” said NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
“Since coming to office, the NSW Government has delivered more than 15,800 extra weekly public transport services for customers and today’s announcement is further proof that we’re committed to putting on even more where and when they’re needed most.
“This is all about staying ahead of the curve to ensure customers have sufficient levels of service well into the future.”For people that remember Sydney’s original double decker bus fleet, it’s actually more like replacing something many feel, like trams, should never have been taken away in the first place. Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian – who spearheaded many of the key public transit reforms when she held the Transport portfolio – said the upcoming NSW Budget would continue to fund more services and infrastructure. “These double decker buses have allowed us to deliver good customer outcomes and we are pleased to be rolling out more of them across Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said before cataloguing where new money was going to be spent. The Treasurer said that under the NSW Budget 2016-16 commitment, 12 new or extended routes will come online. They include a new cross suburban link between the Inner West and Lower North Shore, all night services seven days a week for Green Square and Zetland as well as Abbotsford, Five Dock and Rouse Hill on weekends. The addition of new all-night services has long been called for by groups representing essential services and the hospitality sector where the availability and cost of labour have been hit by the shortage of car spaces and a lack of alternative transport options. Fleet renewal and replacement is also a strong focus, with older non-air conditioned buses finally dropped from service in favour of climate controlled accessible (or ‘kneeling’) busses that allow wheelchair users to roll-on and roll-off regular services – an important addition given many older Sydney railway stations still don’t have lifts. Specifics for the 2016/17 Growth Bus Services Program Western Sydney (including Hills District and South West) More than 1,350 new weekly trips, including 5 new or extended routes.
- New route 605 (North Kellyville to Rouse Hill Town Centre)
- Extended route 751 (Marsden Park to Blacktown via Colebee)
- Extended route T72 (Blacktown to Rouse Hill Town Centre via Alex Avenue)
- Extended route T74 (Blacktown to Riverstone via Hambledon Road)
- Extended route 783 (Penrith to Jordan Springs)
- 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2)
- 610X/M61 (Rouse Hill and Castle Hill to City M2)
- 611 (Blacktown to Macquarie Park via M2)
- 615X (North Kellyville to City via M2)
- 619 (Rouse Hill to Macquarie Park via Kellyville and M2)
- 620X-621 (Castle Hill and Cherrybrook to Macquarie Park and City via M2)
- 700 (Blacktown to Parramatta via Prospect)
- 740 (Plumpton to Macquarie Park via M2)
- 841 (Narellan to Leppington)
- T65 (Rouse Hill to Parramatta via Westmead)
- T80 (Liverpool to Parramatta via Bonnyrigg)
- New route 530 (Burwood to Chatswood via Five Dock, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove)
- New route 985 (Miranda to Cronulla via Woolooware Shores)
- Various Northern Beaches routes between Mona Vale and the City
- 197 (Mona Vale to Macquarie Park via Terrey Hills)
- 270-274 (Frenchs Forest District to City)
- 343 (Kingsford to City)
- 370 (Leichhardt to Coogee)
- 433 (Balmain to Railway Square via Harold Park)
- 477 (Miranda to Rockdale via Sans Souci)
- 506 (Macquarie University and East Ryde to City via Hunters Hill)
- 518 (Macquarie University to City via Ryde)
- M20 (Zetland to Wynyard via Central Station)
- M41 (Burwood to Macquarie Park via Ryde)
- 301 (Zetland to City via Surry Hills) – seven days
- 438 (Abbotsford to City via Five Dock and Leichhardt) – Friday and Saturday only
- 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2) – Friday and Saturday only
- New route 178 (Anambah to Rutherford)
- Extended routes 260 and 261 (Minmi and Fletcher to Jesmond and University)
- Extended route 40 (Gosford – Wyoming)
- Enhanced services on routes 67 and 68 between Terrigal and Gosford
- Enhanced services on route 33 between Gosford and Mangrove Mountain
- New route 75 (Tullimbar to Stockland Shellharbour)
- Extended route 32 (Dapto to Brooks Reach)
- Enhanced services on route 1 between Austinmer and Wollongong
- Enhanced services on routes 31-33 between Wollongong and Dapto District
- Enhanced services on route 34 between Warrawong and Wollongong
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