NSW seeking ‘interim’ bosses for merged local councils


With the number of local councils in New South Wales being winnowed through amalgamations from 152 to 112, inevitably there will be fewer CEO jobs around.

The NSW government has continued its push to slash the number of local government areas, writing to council general managers last week seeking expressions of interest for the job of “interim” council general managers.

But some in the local government field are unhappy with how the government is going about the process — and even the fact that the state is directly involved in hiring staff normally chosen by councils themselves.

Apart from undermining council powers, the move could prove expensive — general managers are hired on contracts, meaning a potentially significant redundancy payout if heads of merged councils are terminated before end of contract.

The letter, sent by Department of Premier and Cabinet deputy secretary Simon Draper, asked general managers to indicate whether they were interested in applying for a 12 month position by April 15. NSW local government elections will likely take place in March 2017, after which time amalgamated councils would be able to choose permanent managers.

The letter states that the state government will name interim general managers when new councils are created.

“Upon commencement of any new council the proclamation creating that council will name the interim general manager of the new council, a role that is expected to be in place for 12 months,” it says.

“To this end, I am writing to all general managers that are affected by a merger proposal seeking expressions of interest to be appointed to this role. Seeking this feedback is not intended to pre-empt any decision by government about any merger proposal nor does it guarantee appointment to any role.”

Details about pay, performance management, position description and contracts are yet to be confirmed, it adds.

The letter asks applicants to answer two change management-focused questions:

  • What approach have you taken in the past to lead significant organisational change?
    a. What key outcomes did you achieve?
    b. How did you lead and consult with staff?
  • Service continuity is crucial during change. What, in your experience, are the key ingredients to delivering successful service continuity and improvement at a time of change?

Keith Rhoades, president of council peak association Local Government NSW was unavailable to answer questions by publication, however he has recently highlighted the strangeness of the state government firing and hiring council chiefs.

“I can’t think of another place where … someone who doesn’t employ you tells you can reapply for your job but that you might not get it,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

He argued it was “decision making on the run”, and that the state government was encroaching on local government’s turf, according to Government News.

“[General managers] don’t work for the government. They were not employed by the government, they were not employed by the minister,” he said. “They have contracts. They are employed by councils.”

He predicted the sacking of general managers at pre-amalgamation councils would be expensive — they make between $220,000 and almost $500,000 and are generally entitled to 38 weeks’ salary if their contract is terminated prematurely — and that ratepayers, rather than the state government, would foot the bill.

DPC’s letter to council general managers

As you are aware, the NSW Government anticipates that the council boundary review process will be completed by around the middle of 2016. The Government is committed to the effective implementation of any merger that goes ahead and central to this will be effective and appropriate organisational leadership.

Upon commencement of any new council the proclamation creating that council will name the interim General Manager of the new council, a role that is expected to be in place for 12 months. To this end, I am writing to all General Managers that are affected by a merger proposal seeking expressions of interest to be appointed to this role. Seeking this feedback is not intended to pre-empt any decision by Government about any merger proposal nor does it guarantee appointment to any role.

If you wish to express your interest to be appointed to this role in any potential new council, please complete the attached expression of interest form. Please sign and return this form along with a copy of your resume and a two-page covering letter addressing the two target questions listed in the form. Expressions of interest close at 5.00pm Wednesday 13 April 2016 and must be sent to [email protected]

Once expressions of interest are received they will be evaluated and this may lead to a further assessment and evaluation process. Details of this process will be provided in due course as will details of remuneration, performance measurement framework, role description and contract.

If you have any questions about this process, please contact Scott Forsdike, Principle Project Officer.

Yours sincerely,
Simon Draper
Deputy Secretary
31 March 2016

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