Two months after their official swearing in, the Central Coast’s 15 elected Councillors have yet to deal with several critical issues.
Councillors have yet to discuss the selection of a new General Manager or CEO, a process that must be undertaken within six months of the election of a new Council, according to NSW law.
Wyong Regional Chronicle understands that the interim CEO, Mr Brian Bell, was appointed by the former Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, and CEO, Mr Rob Noble, on a 12-month contract.
Mr Reynolds and Mr Noble also placed the current senior management team on four-year contracts, which means, if replaced during their current tenure, contract payouts will need to be made at rate payers’ expense.
Independent Councillor, Mr Greg Best, said the lengthy contracts given to the senior executive team and to Mr Bell meant the Central Coast Council was still under administration.
“We haven’t begun to have discussions about the leadership team,” Clr Best said.
“We should have immediately formed a Council committee to put in a new leadership team for the long term,” he said.
Other Councillors have also expressed concerns that the Administrator-appointed Mr Bell, even though a highly-experienced and competent local government executive, may choose to stay an additional 12 months.
“And then it would only be a year out before the next election, so why would this Council select a CEO that might be out of a job in 12 months?” Clr Best said.
Clr Best also said that the new Councillors had far less power to liaise directly with front-line staff and were already having difficulties getting face-to-face time with the senior executive team.
“I have two major projects that I need to get in front of a director, but I am still waiting for that individual to find time in their diary for me,” Clr Best said.
“In the previous Wyong Council, I would have gone directly to the section head who would have known exactly what needed to be done, and would have answered my questions immediately,” he said.
“The new rules around Councillor-staff engagement mean that Councillors cannot speak directly to section heads.
“They can speak to Councillors’ Services, the director or the General Manager,” he said.
Any Councillor who wishes to get a matter before a particular division or manager needs to use a Councillor Services phone number or email address to bring matters to the attention of relevant staff.
“I cannot get meetings, and I know all the senior managers and the personal assistants, because I was a former Wyong Councillor, but the first-time Councillors think it is normal to be given one contact number and a general email address, and it is not,” he said.
In her latest video interview with Wyong Regional Chronicle, Central Coast Mayor, Clr Jane Smith, said Councillors had not yet been briefed on a consolidated Local Environmental Plan (LEP) which has already been given gateway approval by the NSW Department of Planning.
“I have had a quick look at the gateway document,” Clr Smith said.
“It will go out on exhibition, and I think that it is really important that residents have a look at it and make submissions if they are not happy with what is being proposed,” she said.
The newly-formed Central Coast Council is still grappling with issues like the frequency of meetings.
“I think there is a general view amongst the councillors that we would like more than a monthly meeting,” Clr Smith said.
“So we are starting to have that conversation, and I would expect that at the November 27 meeting, there would be a motion to increase the number of meetings to two per month,” she said.
“We are still discussing the days of the week as the Monday is not the preferred option for everybody, so again, we are trying to field some other days of the week, so I am expecting to go to two meetings per month and it may be a different day.
Clr Doug Vincent said he would also support fortnightly meetings.
“We now have one Council for the Central Coast region with a three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar budget, and nine-tenths of the business is being done under delegation, and I think the general public deserves more transparency than that,” Clr Vincent said.
Interview, Nov 20
Greg Best, Central Coast Council
Interview, Nov 17
Doug Vincent, Central Coast Council
Interview, Nov 14
Jane Smith, Central Coast Council
Jackie Pearson, journalist