Just like most aircraft crashes, it is a combination of factors.
As a former council employee, I consider the contributory factors for the current financial crisis are as follows.
The NSW Government’s “fit for purpose” rational for amalgamation, which was never released for proper public consultation.
Many believe it was doctored to justify the policy.
The facts are that both Gosford and Wyong Councils were already large by area and population and, surprise surprise, the council administration centres for each were in a strategically central location for those council areas.
The Department of Local Government edict that neither of the pre amalgamated general managers would be eligible to be general manager of the new council was lunacy.
At least an incumbent general manager would have an understanding of half the new entity.
There was a lack of “hands-on” leadership with a rolling cast of state government appointed administrators and interim and temporary general managers.
The positioning of senior staff to secure their position in the new council over the critical initial 12-month period saw the Wyong senior staff triumphalism on achieving the majority of the senior posts in the new council, and this was grounded in a campaign that tended to denigrate the former administration at Gosford (some of it justified) and portray the superiority of the former Wyong management.
The decision by the Administrator and the management team to purchase completely new financial software, rather than adopt one of the two existing systems, and the administration of this process, were disgraceful, both in terms of the resources consumed, its haste and the abject failure.
Financial reporting could simply not be done for the better part of a year.
Account balances simply could not be accessed.
The lack of a “hands on” proactive management style by many senior staff with an eye to cost savings, saw a lack of any understanding and monitoring by directors who were responsible for the collection of water, sewer and development contributions and charges, which are “restricted funds”, and the subsequent failure to intervene to stop such funds being used for illegitimate purposes.
Councillors were acting on incorrect financial information competing to get projects for their areas of interest.
There was a failure of independent and competent auditing.
So nearly five years on, we have twice the debt, and if the current Administrator has his way, half the representation.
The referendum question should be about de-amalgamation and not about reducing the number of councillors.
Email, Mar 8
Council Unit Manager
Community representative on Central Coast Local Planning Panel