Council should focus on productivity

Forum –

Our community is justifiably angry that Central Coast Council (CCC) has been granted a 15 per cent Special Rate Variation (SRV) to fund its own mismanagement.

A whopping 42 per cent rate hike in Gosford shire when combined with harmonisation.

So, it’s disappointing that new Council Administrator Rik Hart complains it isn’t enough and says he may apply for a new SRV (“Hart Takes the Reins” CCN, May 21).

Mr Hart would be better advised focusing on productivity and efficiency.

IPART’s report highlighted this was an area where CCC is failing.

Mr Hart has previously explained that CCC needs to raise about $200M to repay restricted reserves.

He expects to get about half that from asset sales and other initiatives.

This leaves about $100M from additional rate income.

So, why did CCC apply for an SRV raising about three times that in additional rate income over 10 ten years?

The answer, of course, is to balance the operating budget of an inefficient Council.

Even IPART saw through that which is why it restricted the SRV to three years to pay back the restricted reserves, whilst suggesting CCC should use the breathing space to improve productivity.

Mr Hart doesn’t seem to understand that productivity is a measure of output per employee.

Reducing costs by slashing services simply means doing less with less.

The trick to improving productivity is doing more with less.

Mr Hart has limited experience in the private sector where it is normal to seek productivity improvements year on year.

Even State Government has a long standing 2.5 per cent per year efficiency target enforced by NSW Treasury.

Unfortunately, CCC has been going backwards on productivity and Mr Hart has done nothing to turn this around.

The previous Administrator’s 30 day report stated that CCC had 1,875 staff before amalgamation.

Mr Hart has since admitted that, even after his recent staff cuts, CCC still has more than that at around 2,000.

Yet, he has also announced significant service cuts which means CCC is providing less service with more staff than it had five years ago – the very definition of lower productivity.

Any child of 10 with a spreadsheet can balance the books by slugging ratepayers, cutting services, and selling assets.

Mr Hart and new CEO Mr Farmer will be judged on whether they can improve financial management and customer service.

The secret to that is performance culture, productivity and efficiency.

Email, May 23
Kevin Brooks, Kincumber

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