Wednesday, May 09, 2007

John So trims the bone

But leaves the fat on the plate

Melbourne City Council forks out $300,000 in another round of consultants reports to recommend where it should save costs but so as to not be held accountable as to its choice of implementation the menu will not be published

The Age

There is no doubt that the City Council is overstaffed and over governed. Finances in the City Council are overstretched with John So having raided the Councils reserves on an unchecked spending spree reducing the Councils working capital ratio to the lowest on record.

The City Council is facing a major crisis in the retail sector as the cost of doing business in the City Center soars and customers prefer to shop else where where parking is free and their dollar goes further. The City center is no longer the home of Melbourne entertainment or shopping. Major cultural assets such as the Museum of Victoria have been located at the outskirts of the city centre instead of taking center stage.

The city is facing serious decline as a result poor planning and governance policies undertaken over the last 10-15 years. Rob Adams should either take on more responsibility or be sacked, he has created his own portflio and job description excluding the tasks that he does not want and can not to deal with.

The Council administration has become fat and non-productive. It exist to support itself taxing the life from the city itself. Walk down Melbourne's Swanston Street and you will soon see the quality of retail more $2 junk shops and sex shows then Kings cross.

We have no doubt that the City can and should undergo a major cut back in the top end. Two directorships at least should be scrapped and their functions merged.

The Ernst & Young consultants report should be published. the ratepayers and citizens of Melbourne have a right to know the true extent and recommendation that are before the City Council prior to the City Council doing a butchers hatched job to dress the mutton up as being lamb.

Council rejig to cut jobs
The Age - May 9, 2007

RADICAL overhaul of Melbourne City Council appears certain, after consultants recommended the sacking of at least two layers of senior management in a secret report.

A number of top-level staff — including two directors — are likely to lose their jobs in what is looming as the biggest shake-up at the council in 14 years.

Senior staff today will be given the report on how the council can cut costs — for which consultants Ernst & Young were paid $300,000.

But the confidential document — which contains crucial financial recommendations — will be kept from the public for several weeks until budget negotiations near completion.

Council chief executive David Pitchford last week forced councillors to sign confidentiality agreements before they were given a copy of the report.

The nine councillors were warned they risked being sacked if they discussed publicly any of the report's findings before its official wider release on June 3.

However, one councillor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has described the report as "a bombshell".

The Age believes Ernst & Young has recommended how the council can cut its costs by more than $5 million.

In part, the report recommends slashing senior staff numbers, which have almost doubled under Mr Pitchford, who is Victoria's highest paid council officer on a salary of up to $396,000.

At least 85 staff at the council are on salaries in excess of $100,000; when Mr Pitchford became chief executive in 2003 there were 46 in that bracket.

Lord Mayor John So last night said: "Like any organisation, (the council) can actively find opportunities to do things better, smarter and cheaper."

The Age believes the report finds the council:

■ Should reduce its number of directors from seven to five.

■ Needs to undergo a structural reorganisation.

■ Should reduce its salary bill by cutting the number of staff paid more than $100,000.

■ Is too reliant on consultants.

■ Should consider farming out some services, including child care, to the private sector.

The likelihood of a major restructure comes despite Mr Pitchford last year reorganising the council to try to make it function more effectively.

The Lord Mayor came under fire last night for allowing the report to be made confidential.

"John So should not allow this sort of thing to go on behind closed doors," former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said.

"This is a misuse of the confidentiality provisions of the Local Government Act. It is using the act to hide financial information from the public that will embarrass the council."

A second councillor told The Age the Ernst & Young consultants had "identified some very serious inadequacies within certain departments".

"It implies what a lot of us have been wanting: a shrinkage of directors," the councillor said.

Mr Pitchford last night defended having spent $300,000 on the report.

"This is not a public review," he said. "It is for internal purposes. The report will remain confidential until its findings and recommendations can be fully assessed."


Anonymous said...

The report in the Age is wrong.

Much of what is in the report can be gleaned from the annual report.

Over 10 million dollars of direct savings in recurrent cost can be made.

The extent of cuts proposed by the consultants recommends major review in the restructure of Melbourne Council's Governance Department, which under Linda Weathersonm went though a major expansion with many members of staff engeaged without really knowing what their main job is.

Reading between the lines the report is critical of the CEO David Pitchford who should have been able to have implemented many of the recommendations contained within it but did not. It makes you wonder why we are paying him $300,000 a year for what.

There has been a major blowout in staffing costs made worsts by John So's carefree spending frenzy.

There are issues of concern also that should be of interest the Auditor General's Department.

Information has been held back or "colored" when presented to management.

Whilst the report does not mention names it is pretty obvious who is who in the zoo. The report is being kept under wraps so as to all time for the Council to put its spin on it. A number of senior staff are expected to resign soon after the release of the report.

Given that the extent of the blow in costs happened under David Pitchford and John So's watch it makes you wonder why David's contract was renewed.

MelbCity said...

Anonymous (May 09, 2007 5:39 PM)

Thanks for your comment.

You have not really provided any new information but your comment is welcomed never the less.

We have known for some time that it is design-a-job city down at the clown hall.

Much of the rot set in soon after the departure of Elizabeth Proust and Andy Friend

A blow out in staffing costs began under Micheal Malouf and continued under John So/David Pitchford.

John So's style of management continues to be also part of the escalation of the problems facing town hall.

He might be a lovable cuddly panda lord mayor but he and his deputy are far from sound financial managers.

Directly elected Lord Mayors produce high roller spenders and not fiscal policy managers.

I agree with your comments that much of what is expected to be in the report, if and when it is released, can be found in the Annual reports. This years annual report will be no exception.

Like you I am at a loss as to why David Pitchford had to spend $300,000 to provide him with information that he should have been able to identify himself.

I guess they need the cover of an external consultant to justify to the inmates their release.

The City of Melbourne has spent 100's of millions of dollars of ratepayer's money in the construction of six star administration blocks. Now they need to fill it up with design-a-job aspirants. Many directors and managers do not want to deal with the task they were originally employed to do and soon after they are redesigning the work place to suit. Its paartvof their job to expand their departments to justify their job.

The reports in the Age says two directors face the chopp. I would suggest that three if not four could go along with a host of padded office hanger ons to go also.

Bring back Elizabeth Proust... or find someone of her caliber. Sack John So and restore the collegiate system of appointment of Lord Mayor so at least the elected city council can have a say in who should head the council. Fix the top end then maybe we will see changes in the City Council administration.

Thanks again for your comments.

If you manage to get hold of an advanced copy of the report, you can expect then to hit streets and fax buttons by the end of the week, you can always publish it or juicy extracts by making another Anonymous comment on the blog.

MelbCity said...

PS If you do get hold of a copy of the report just make sure you do not use a computer provided by the City Council they are monitoring all communications I am told. Try the Internet cafe around the corner.. Keep publishing.

Anonymous said...

John So. is an expert on supporting policies that benefit himself - his image and his business. In the meant time, the City of Melbourne is in the RED.

Before the Commonwealth games, So was reported by the media as saying he wanted to employ spin doctors. Other councillors were reported as seeing this as a waste of money, and that they should be judged by their performance.

Obviously So did not listen, his spin doctors have been incredibly effective and I am not surprised that council money has been wasted on promoting the city ALWAYS with his image. eg. Try a trip on his wasteful "tourist bus" which competes against public transport - pick up a brochure with SO's image on it. Read the constant updates of Melbourne CC in the local newspaper - all featuring SO's image. Go to the Vic Market and see the screen along Elizabeth St with SO's picture. Watch the ads on TV with SO smiling and pretty blonde speaking.

So is a master of spin. See the extraordinary Wikipedia entry of So, which even includes an entry of his son's VCE score and achievements. Who suggested that? ...And a direct link to So's Dragon Boat Restaurant chain so you can book a table online.

Didn't So fly black helicopters for his last pre-election campaign? And isnt he also a "knight"? and a "bro". He supports big business with big profile

That is all very fun, fine, and totally legal….But I ask you, if he was the Mayor of your local municipality if they were doing this, rarely attending council meetings, and seemingly incapable of unscripted debate without heavy support from articulate supporters, would you vote for them? I don't want a mascot. An inscrutable smile does not help when serious considered answers are required. I want a Lord Mayor who can give us some accountability and tranparency in the processes, in this case the financial processes, that appear to be leading to job losses, increased parking fees, and…wait for it…rate rises.

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