On Further Consideration!
Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 2:32PM
Bill Barclay

This is the Press Release at 5pm on Friday.   

Under the resonant headline:

Restructure good news for local communities and rate payers: $26.5 million to come off the rates bill and a new era of partnership announced.

Chief Spinner Ben Day certainly stretches credibility with that one, but it will no doubt will be picked up dutifully by the thoroughly compliant HH and other Peninsula media, along with the core of Hammond’s statement, most of which is arguable:

“The restructure will see budgeted staff numbers reduce by 32, generating savings of over $1.3M per annum, with the implementation to be staged over the next 3-6 months", said Chief Executive David Hammond. "While the decision has been made this week, we're taking a considered approach as we implement the plan".

"The majority of the reductions have come from natural attrition over the past year. The savings to Council in staff costs will be some $17m with a further $9.5m identified in the Information Technology area over our Ten Year Plan period".

"I have moved decisively with the restructure given this project has been hanging over the organisation for several years. This week's announcement, while difficult for some, brings closure and certainty and opens a new and positive chapter in our organisations history".

These are the (claimed) reductions:

(So this entire exercise has removed 32 staff with a saving of 1.5% in operational expenditure. If that is the case, this is a staggering admission of abject failure in whatever it was that Hammond was setting out to achieve).

This is  where (it is claimed) they  were reduced:

And these are the (claimed) savings:  (Note 2011/12)

And other things of note (claimed):

(Note that there is no specific reference to the most significant changes that have taken place in planning, and building control (regulatory) functions).

Planning, as predicted has been decimated – these are the positions to go :

Strategic Planning will report directly to the Chief Executive, along with the Manager Planning, who has a role restricted to the District Plan. Ten Year and all other forms of planning have been eliminated. That will certainly be of concern to the WRC, and Central Government. Hammond has in effect taken direct control of the entire planning function, with Strategic Planning reduced to four people from ten. Consent planning on the other hand is reduced and six planners distributed around the District. How on earth they plan to co-ordinate that function efficiently is beyond me, and don’t believe for one second that savings are involved – it will be an extremely expensive exercise, particularly with the advent of increased accreditation and auditing – this is a disaster in waiting forced through by council, and board ignorance and ego.

As part and parcel of this change, Environmental Services (which includes Building Control and Regulatory functions has been eliminated – Building Control will be farmed out to a separate operating unit with its own cost centre, and this is claimed as a “staff reduction”, which won’t fool  Blind Ned, but totally satisfy the building industry, led by Leach backer, Marshall Hutt, who has wanted this unit out from under Sam Napia at the very least. He takes over as Strategic Relationship Manger with the prime task of liaising with the Hauraki Collective over the Settlement and Co-governance issues. 

The Chief Executive has taken on Regulatory as a direct report, principally it would appear so that the manager can maintain surveillance over the operation of the new “semi-autonomous Building Consent Authority" that will be “ring-fenced” financially, but “not a Council Controlled Organisation". The same manager will control all the other regulatory functions concurrently as a “third level” reporter. The Chief Executive is obviously a tiger for punishment. His ‘second” and “third” level reporters are manifest!

The Area Managers at Thames, Whangamata and Whitianga (also direct reporters) are to have a plethora of new staff, some of whom are to be described as part of an Area “home” team but part of a district project “away”: team, whatever that means. It sounds like a horrible waste of effort and has the potential for major conflict in execution and allocation of resources. But it fulfils the demand from councillors, and Board Chair Johnston in particular that staff be deployed from Thames to the Area offices. It does not matter whether Hammond has his heart in this deployment – what Leach wants, Leach gets. Never mind that such an illogical, ego driven move will probably be reversed by a future Council, and the sooner the better.

The next major move of note is the creation of a communications/economic development unit of four under chief spin doctor Ben Day. Just what qualifications Day has for the Economic Development role is yet to be revealed. It seems that he has successfully ingratiated himself with Leach and Hammond, and that he is now to be the ‘go-to’ man for anyone planning to invest within the District. He will undoubtedly be the contact for the Aquaculture project – his knowledge in that area would appear to be zero, but then that appears to reflect the sum total of knowledge within this Council on that subject, and the blind will continue to lead the blind down that dark alley for the foreseeable future. With Nick Smith side-lined, the desire of Government to get councils out of extraneous activities that lay cost on ratepayers would appear to have waned with the contradictory expressions by both Smith and Key in regard to what constitutes “public good”.  

Hammond appears ambivalent about Information Services – he is retaining it in the meantime while “an outsourcing study” is completed. He originally wanted to achieve that at the outset, but has obviously had second thoughts – and so he should. Outsourcing of this function has been a disaster in most other organisations, and millions have been spent getting the current structure through previous software glitches, and working efficiently (they still can't get agendas on the website within the two day time limit). Heaven help us if they are to go through another upheaval, but he seems determined to scuttle it under another ‘sinking lid’. Where on earth they have discovered $9.5m in savings over the TYP remains to be seen. That ‘discovery’ must have been significant is preserving the existing structure in the meantime at least.   

The last major move is the rationalising of the finance function with the direct report of Steve Baker as Chief Financial Officer. I endeavoured to push for this when first elected, but was told in effect to back off – it was a “staff matter”. His previous Report was Pam Howat as Manager Support Services. Steve’s role has been enhanced, and his team appear to have been strengthened, and at the same time, Pam has retained her direct report with enhanced legal functions added together with Customer Services from Infrastructure, which is also logical.

But just why they want to ‘advertise’ almost all the Governance Support positions is unclear. The position of Manager in particular is one where it is very easy to get off-side with elected members – it is by far the closest position that they come in contact with. Could it be that some have their noses out of joint?; I hope not – Lynlee Baily has given excellent service in that role in my view, but with some difficult egos to satisfy amongst the current crop of elected members, she is certainly vulnerable. Crs Jack Wells and Wyn Hoadley spring to mind as two with a reputation for making unreal demands befitting their perceived exalted status.             

The concentration of power under Hammond through these moves is a major concern – it seems that he wants to control all the levers of power, and run the show in a far tighter fashion that has been the case in the past. This despite all the virtuous pronouncements regarding devolution to the Area offices – staff may be going, but the direct reports are all to Hammond.

It goes without saying that I have major concerns regarding this re-structure, quite apart from the attrition of some excellent and highly qualified staff that will be sorely missed in the future. Councils come and go, and inevitably the hasty decisions that have followed from Hammond’s appointment will come home to roost for future councils. As I have indicated in previous posts – I believe that he will live to rue the day that he accepted this position on Leach’s terms which were clearly to implement his destructive agenda in the shortest possible time. Other elected members stand condemned in my view for having fallen into line, but undoubtedly, they are like lambs to the slaughter when it comes to dealing with someone like Leach - they are quite simply, ill-equipped.




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