Maranoa Regional Council
Maranoa Regional Council

Biggest change to council in 12 years widens councillor divide

A MAJOR restructure of Maranoa Regional Council operations could prove to be the biggest change in council in 12 years, but the latest debate reveals the widening cracks and growing dysfunction between councillors.

In a confidential meeting on September 9, mayor Tyson Golder moved the motion ‘Organisational Structure’ – which is described in the agenda as “efficient running of the local government, creating competitive local business and improvement of services delivered on the ground locally”.

Cr Golder said he couldn’t reveal too much about the motion, however he claimed it was a “fantastic opportunity” for the Maranoa.

“I look forward to moving to the next step of consultation to gain feedback as part of the process when you have to do major changes to the organisational structures,” he said.

The Western Star understands the structural changes could result in Maranoa towns being serviced in a similar way to pre-amalgamation.

In the council minutes, dated June 24, council authorised the CEO and Executive Team to draft changes to the organisational structure based on the mayor’s view to incorporate five extra staff positions and to include no compulsory retrenchments.

This model was to come back to council for futher consideration at a futher meeting.

In that time, councillors deliberated three proposals, however in the September 9 meeting, 6-3 councillors voted to move forward with only one option.

This is what was discussed at council, September 9:

Frustrations boil over from a minority of councillors:

DESPITE running a campaign centred on transparency, mayor Golder has come under attack from multiple councillors for ignoring certain voices in the chamber and a perceived unwillingness to hear different views.

While Crs John Birkett, Mark Edwards, Julie Guthrie, George Ladbrook and Geoff McMullen voted in favour of handing down only one option for an organisational restructure to staff during a consultation process, Crs Wendy Taylor, Cameron O’Neil and Joh Hancock vehemently opposed the move while criticising the mayor’s leadership.

“I’d just like to say I feel sad about this,” Cr Wendy Taylor said.

“There were three options given and this is the only option given out and I just feel sad we don’t get to move our stuff forward.

“There’s not enough discussion about anything, it’s just a matter of what you (Cr Golder) decide and that’s where it goes.

“I’m disappointed it’s gone to the next level.”

Cr Hancock backed Cr Taylor’s fiery comments to the point of her saying she doesn’t even think it’s worthwhile expressing her opinion in the council chambers.

“I too am really sad – I thought when I was elected, I was part of a team, but I guess that’s not the case,” she said.

“We must stop looking backwards and start looking forwards.

“As a councillor, I was looking forward to working with fellow councillors and staff to work for an organisational structure that would provide the best outcome for the community and we would all have the opportunity to be involved.

“But that’s not the case today if this motion is put forward.”

Since the new councillors were elected in March, a division and voting pattern has emerged between them, with mayor Golder, the Unity Maranoa councillors and Cr McMullen voting together, while Crs O’Neil, Taylor and Hancock often voting differently.

Speaking directly to the mayor, Cr Hancock called him “close minded”, saying he had shown no consideration to anyone else in the chamber.

“Once again Mr Mayor, it concerns me, that quite frankly, it’s disrespectful to your fellow councillors that you are so close minded,” she said.

“You won’t even consider any other councillors’ opinion or staff members’ opinion, it’s all your way – there’s no negotiation.

“Actually, I am thinking what benefit is it for me being at the table, if it’s not in line with what you have to say.

“Where is the room for drawing on other people’s strengths and opinions to come up with a plan that as a team of councillors that we are all happy with,” she questioned.

In order to be transparent, she said all three organisational restructure options should be laid on the table and she questioned the mayor as to whether council is trying to hide something with not putting all three options out.

“You say this is what the community wants, well if that’s the case, then put all three out,” she said.

“You won’t have anything to worry about – it will be transparent, and the consultation can be on all three.”

Cr Cameron O’Neil argued that he hoped the other councillors would see the merit in providing all three options to the staff.

“As councillor Hancock has already shared, yourself and many councillors campaigned on an open and transparent local government,” he said.

“And it is not open and transparent, if we as an elected representatives of this chamber have been working on three different organisational structures.”

“Albeit with similarities, it is not open and transparent if they don’t go out to the staff.”

He said when he looks around the council chamber, he cannot see anyone who has run an organisation with 350 staff.

“So, we need to seek advice to make the best decision we can,” he said.

“We have a CEO, directors, senior staff who provided information today.

“We need to be open and go to staff with all three options that have been discussed, amended, debated, modified in this chamber.”

Cr O’Neil made an example of fellow councillor Hancock saying it was only a few months ago she was a council staff member.

“She provided insight into things I haven’t thought of … we shouldn’t be afraid to put all three out and hear that feedback,” he said.

“We may not like it, but we have to accept it and acknowledge it, then ultimately make a decision.

“We will be poorer as an organisation, poorer as decision makers, if don’t put out all three options out to the consultation to the staff and ultimately make a decision and debate the merits of those, once we have the feedback from the 350 staff that make up this organisation.”

Mayor Golder’s stands firm in his decision:

THE mayor remained confident in his decision of moving forward with just one option for a major organisational restructure to the consultation period, stating it’s the “most exciting opportunity” for the Maranoa community since amalgamation.

“This I believe is the option that has been tested with the community, this consultation has happened and now we’re just moving the motion to proceed to consultation into a different sphere,” he said.

“This is probably the most exciting opportunity for the Maranoa since amalgamation.

“This ticks all the boxes … and that’s why I’m bringing this forward today.”

Cr Julie Guthrie defended the mayor, throwing her support behind Cr Golder’s the motion because it replicated the way many other government organisations, like Education Queensland operate.

“It works well and there’s a good basis here for further investigation,” Cr Guthrie said.

Maranoa Regional Council staff are currently looking over the proposal and will provide feedback to councillors before a decision is made.

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