Staff funding forces redundancy rethink

By Rachel Borchardt
Amalgamated councils struggling with climbing staff costs will have their chance at Queensland’s major local government conference this week to discuss bringing forward redundancies to cope with the financial strain.

Changes to the Local Government Act have banned forced redundancies linked to amalgamations until March 2011, following the widescale council mergers in Queensland last year.

Moreton Bay Regional Council is taking the matter to the Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference, which opens in Brisbane today.

“There’s been a resolution put forward by Moreton Bay Regional Council seeking that the State Government withdraw all provisions in regards to the reform bill that affect councils being able to do their business and do their business effectively,” said LGAQ president Paul Bell.

“It is certainly up to our members now to give us at the LGAQ some direction in regards to how they want us to approach and discuss this issue of the workforce transition code which was part of the reform agenda.”

A total of 57 motions will be put to the conference by councils and regional organisations. Bell said the conference would help set the agenda for LGAQ activities over the next 12 months.
Delegates would also have the opportunity to discuss the detail of the state’s new Local Government Act, which comes into force this December.

“We need to hear from the [Local Government] Minister [Desley Boyle] about the way in which the regulation will roll out and how that will allow councils to obtain … a new and flexible environment in which they can work, to allow us to do the business of local government.”

The LGAQ conference will run until Thursday, with delegates set to hear from prominent speakers including the Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley, Ms Boyle and BT Financial Group chief economist Chris Caton.

With new long-term community plans soon to be enforced as part of the upcoming Local Government Act, attendees will have the chance to learn from the experience of New Zealand’s Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor Philippa Barriball.

“New Zealand has 10 years of experience with these community plans (and) we need to make sure that the experience from across the other side of the ditch is well espoused to our membership,” Bell said.

He said sustainability and planning would also be on the agenda, with the deputy mayor of Toronto City Council, Shelly Carroll, discussing climate change adaptation in Canada.

“We are really trying to set the scene about councils planning for sustainability and getting that right,” Bell said.

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