Council to have $50k review

LISMORE Council will spend $50,000 on an independent review of its works program after it was heavily criticised during the recent community consultation on the proposed special rate hike.

The review will focus on how the council maintains roads and parks, its fleet and workshop operations, quarry and asphalt division, water and waste services.

“Infrastructure services make up the bulk of the council’s budget so it’s important to see how well and how effectively we are using those funds,” the council’s infrastructure services executive director, Garry Hemsworth, told a council workshop this week.

“It needs to be done by an independent consultant because staff is too close to the issue.

“You need objectivity and that degree of arms length to really respect the outcome.”

During the rate consultation council staff were routinely criticised for poorly maintaining roads and generally wasting money due to poor management practices.

Mr Hemsworth said due to the limited amount of money to employ the consultant the review would primarily be a ‘desktop review’ with a limited number of onsite visits to worksites.

“It will look at the big items, and we will be asking the consultant to look at how efficiently and effectively we are undertaking them,” he said.

“The consultant will rely on industry benchmarks, his own experience, and the local conditions in relation to the council budget.”

The review will also look at the staff resourcing and management structure, which has been recently overhauled.

Mr Hemsworth said one of the other issues raised by the community was customer service, which will also be examined by the consultant.

In particular it will examine the number and type of requests from ratepayers, response times from staff, and the number of requests completed.

“I’m not expecting a gold star on that one,” he conceded.

Providing a timeline for the process, Mr Hemsworth said the council hoped to open tenders for a consultant by next month with the successful applicant engaged and working by July.

All going to plan, a report will be tabled for discussion at another council workshop in September.

A final report will be compiled and presented to councillors in October which will then be released for community consultation.

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