Mr Viv May addressed Armidale Regional Council (ARC) for the last time on Wednesday, and the first thing on his agenda was to deliver his monthly minute.
He reported for the record that last Friday ARC was given notice by the Minister for Local Government the Hon Shelley Hancock MP of her intention to issue a Performance Improvement Order on Armidale Regional Council under the Local Government Act 1993. And that council has seven days to make any submissions.
"My term as Interim Administrator concludes on 11 December 2020 and I am required to submit a further report including recommendations to the Minister by 27 November," Mr May said
"While it is pleasing to report that there are some 'green shoots' there is still a long way to go to put in place a council that undertakes its statutory obligations and has the respect of the community it seeks to serve."
Mr May said he was extremely fortunate to secure the services of Mr John Rayner PSM as the acting general manager.
"Together we have used our experience to rebuild systems and procedures within the administration, and to stabilise the council's failing finances," he said.
In my view, the former and suspended councillors together with CEO's and some staff failed and there remains a denial on the part of some to acknowledge their contribution in that regard.
The newly appointed general manager (James Roncon former General Manager Broken Hill City Council) will commence duties on January 11, and Mr May said he was confident he was the right person to face the 'many challenges facing the organisation', but he would need 'air'.
"The organisational structure of the council is complex and confusing," he said.
"Since the 2016 merger,there have been four formal reorganisations and eight general managers, including acting and interim.
"The cost not only in dollars, but mental health considerations of staff and service delivery is considerable. "
Mr May went on to say that while he and Mr Rayner both had our views on the structure that would best serve ARC they had taken the decision that it is best left to the incoming general manager.
"There remains a number of vacancies at all levels across the organisation," he said.
"We also question whether some people now holding senior positions have the right skills and experience."
Mr May said that many of the matters he raised in his earlier report to the minister recommending a public inquiry be considered were being dealt with.
"In my view, the council had failed the community it was meant to serve in the exercise of its functions, provision of core services and decision making, community participation, financial management and integrated planning and reporting," he said.
"I can now report that many of the matters I raised are being addressed, and have or will be reported to council and many matters and policies are rightfully being put to public consultation.
"The workload of the administration staff has been enormous, and they have responded with professionalism and confidence."
One of the most important improvements, according to Mr May, was the now enthusiastic response to both Federal and State Government grant opportunities.
"There appears to be a renewed trust with not only local members but government departments and agencies," he said.
"The capacity of the council to manage these opportunities should not be underestimated and is stretching some areas of the council to the limit, and the acting general manager is recruiting project managers with a 'can do' approach."
Mr May stressed that the council was in a rebuilding phase, so governance and council's financial management weaknesses needed to be rectified and improved.
"That process has commenced and has been recognised by the minister in announcing a very strong independent oversight on councillors - limiting opportunities for further mismanagement," he said.
"My only remaining concern is a more political matter, and that relates to full representative democracy in the ARC Local Government Area with the resignation of four councillors and the fact that there still remains no acknowledgement by some of the suspended councillors that their behaviour was not acceptable.
I have no control over these matters but electors will have the chance to pass judgement in September 2021
"The letter from the minister makes it very clear that if the proposed Performance Improvement Order is not complied with, she may consider again temporarily suspending the council."
Finally, Mr May said he welcomed the Performance Improvement Order of the Minister of Local Government.
"It is a comprehensive approach to the management of what was a toxic environment and will allow the return of the Council and democratic leadership to the people of ARC," he said.
"An honest, open and transparent approach to decision making has been introduced to ARC over the past six months, and I expect this will continue with the return of elected members."
Mr May will remain as interim administrator until 11 December 2020 and said he would continue to drive a reform agenda .
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