Another review into a floundering Council. Here’s a good place to start…

Noosa Council has announced a ‘substantial’ review of its Corporate Plan, with a new plan to be adopted in January to guide the Council’s management in the years ahead.

The Council has not yet revealed the cost of this process, handed to an external consultant.

Readers of Noosa Matters will know that we have been shining a light on the way our Council has massively increased staff numbers in a largely unsuccessful attempt to deliver an unrealistic program of new initiatives.

Too many plates spinning, and now another review to follow the CEO’s “roadmap for change” delivered just a few months ago.

So allow me to save our Council some time with this summary of a floundering organisation:

Instead of sticking to delivering basic services and dealing only with any critical new issues during Covid, executive staff and elected members have embarked on an unprecedented expansion of the organisation.

Management has not been able to handle the resulting chaos, with insider reporting of inefficient operations, delayed project delivery, low morale and high employee turnover – and no end in sight.

There was an opportunity to address the problems at a Council meeting in August to review the June Budget. The review showed that a large proportion of the previous year’s capital program had not been delivered despite all the additional staff.

But instead of addressing the cause of the problems, the Council simply added to the problem and kicked the can further down the road. 

A normal Capital Program for Noosa would be around $30 million annually, and there would usually be around $5 million of unfinished carryover projects at June 30 to be finalised. 

In the 2020/21 year, it was $31 million with $8 million carryover. Covid during that year was causing disruption to delivery of projects.

Despite this, in the Budget approved in June 2021, the Program was increased to $48 million. Warning bells should have been ringing loudly, and sure enough the carryover was $12 million.

Clear enough? Not to the growing bureaucracy at Pelican Street.

Six weeks after agreeing to an optimistic $42 million Capital Program in the current 2022/23 Budget in June this year, they reviewed the Budget and increased the program to $57 million!

Maybe that’s why they agreed to 9 more permanent positions, extensions to 15 existing ‘temporary’ positions, and another 14 new ‘temporary’ positions in the June Budget. 

Either that, or they just have no idea what they’re doing. They approved huge staff increases in last year’s budget as well and still couldn’t deliver. Now they’ve done the same this year, presumably expecting a different result.

Has no one in Pelican Street heard that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is often defined as insanity?

During an interview on local ABC recently, the Mayor boasted about great financial management being responsible for the budget being in surplus at the end of last financial year. The surplus was $9 million.

$4 million of that was ‘untied’ cash, equivalent to 5% of total general rates last year. So the Council increased total general rates by 10% last year, only half of which was needed. 

That money is just sitting unused in an account, yet they still increased total rates again this year by 10%. Why? And why is Council borrowing $5 million this year?

Nothing to boast about here. The Council Budget is a joke, but the community isn’t laughing.

The reality is that too much revenue has overwhelmed the organisation during a pandemic. The Budget is bloated from extorting an additional 20% in rate revenue in the last two years in addition to the largest ever handouts from other governments as a result of Covid. 

The acting CEO of Noosa Council many years ago had the courage to advise his new Mayor (yes, that was me) to slow down the new initiatives so the organisation could cope. The advice was heeded, planned initiatives were implemented successfully, and the organisation was not damaged in the process. The outcome could have been very different.

Council’s new CEO is now well past his first 100 days, more than enough time to recognise the problems. Hopefully he has the courage to give fearless advice and the skills to reverse the damage quickly. 

The CEO is responsible for the performance of the organisation. Sadly others in the organisation who might be in a position to do something are likely to be part of the problem. 

Many in the community and the Council organisation will be hoping his reputed past experience of organisational change and working in challenging political environments will turn the current disaster around.


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