Council staff changes defended

The decision came after five positions within SDRC were made redundant. Picture: FILE

By Jess Baker

Southern Downs Regional Council insists the decision to reduce its senior leadership team was not driven by money saving, but by the potential for improved communication.

Councillors voted unanimously to adopt a new organisational structure with a senior leadership team of 13 – down from 14 – at an ordinary meeting on Wednesday 14 July.

In a report tabled at the meeting, chief executive officer Dave Burges acknowledged changes to the organisation would impact a number of departments and create “a level of anxiety amongst staff”.

The council’s Waste Services Department has now merged with the Environmental and Regulatory Services Department to form a new department, Environmental Services.

The Built Environment function has been moved from Environmental Services to the Strategic Planning and Prosperity Department, which has now been renamed the department of Planning and Development Services.

And the Economic Development function has been moved from Planning and Development Services to report directly to the CEO, under the leadership of a newly created Senior Economic Development Coordinator position.

In his report, Mr Burges stated budget improvement was not the motivation for the changes, although a net decrease in wages would be an outcome of them.

He stated the organisational changes had the potential to improve communication within the two departments, which were “rationalised” from three, but risked strategic focus.

“Focus on operational matters causes an inability to think and plan strategically which impacts on the reputation of council,” read the report.

Southern Downs Councillor Stephen Tancred expressed his support of Mr Burges and the organisational structure changes at the 14 July council meeting.

“I know that my colleagues share the sentiment that we support the CEO and he has great capacity to take on these jobs,” Cr Tancred said.

He referred to Mr Burges’ report and said that the changes had been made not to save money, but “for efficiencies and change of direction”.

SDRC announced last month that five positions within the council had been made redundant and three new positions created.

A council spokeswoman said staff who were impacted by the change in structure were offered other positions within the organisation.

“This process is now finalised and four of the five staff have accepted new roles within the organisation,“ she said.

“Only one staff elected not to take up a redeployment opportunity with (the) council and accepted a redundancy.“

The spokeswoman would not confirm who accepted a redundancy, but said staff who remain will formally begin in their new roles on Monday 2 August.

“(The) council has also started the recruitment process for the vacant Director roles – Planning and Environmental Services and Infrastructure Services.“