Start with a policy of no forced amalgamations and entice 152 general managers and mayors, some representatives of the Local Government and Shires Associations (more councillors from the councillors lobby group) and the Local Government Managers Association (more bean counters from the managers lobby group) to Dubbo for a couple of days and what do you get?

Well, it's a bit hard get the full picture to the yet but one thing you'll get is a review of that policy which may result in forced amalgamations, a broader and more dramatic commitment to resource sharing and potentially significant changes across the State. And, you might get some changes to the Local Government Act as well.

The Division of Local Government didn't invite the three local government unions to participate in the Dubbo talkfest. Historically they aren't very good at involving the unions in things that are clearly industrial in nature - such as the development of the Model Code of Conduct, or the Standard Contract for Senior Officers etc - so no one was surprised that all we got was notice that the talkfest was on and the DLG assuring us that if anything resulted of an industrial nature, they would let us know.

The Government announced that it had established a Review into the Act and appointed former Liberal member for Gordon Tim Moore and former ALP member of the Legislative Council Ron Dyer to conduct it. We met with them on 12 August at their invitation as part of speaking to organisations in the industry with an interest. They wanted a broad brush discussion.

The Committee of Management had met earlier in the day and we had that discussion. It was also timely for the Committee to appoint our Gosford delegate Jo Doheny to a vacant position on the Committee because Jo is a strategic planner. The Committee resolved some broad approaches, these are incorporated into a some broad observations and Paul O'Brien, Jo Doherny and I had an hour and a half with the Review that afternoon.

The Review is starting with a blank page. Apparently with no direction from Government but with a claimed open mind about how planning and development should be managed in the State.

It would have been unrealistic to assume that the relatively benign process established by the BPB to accredit council employees would continue forever. It would also be unrealistic to expect that the zealots on the BPB might contemplate how the accreditation of council employees process has gone, whether it has added value to the quality of development control and the construction of buildings, or whether it has been largely irrelevant, before they went any further.

But no. The BPB remains committed to rolling new council employees, or employees trying to upgrade their category of accreditation, over to exactly the same qualification and experience  requirements as private certifiers.

This, despite the industry having told them for years that while private certifiers do certifying full-time, council employees do many, many other things. While requirements for someone doing something full-time may need to be rigorous because if they don't do anything else they don't need training or qualifications in those other areas, forcing that degree of rigour onto someone who does it only for part of the job, makes no sense.

Gosford Council has accepted the recommendations made by IRC President Justice Boland after their dawdling, hopeless and sub-professional investigation of one of our members (read the letter from Gosford here).

A well-attended meeting of depa members at Gosford (we have 35 members there) on 3 August resolved unanimously not to have any role in any investigation conducted by the Council until the investigation policy and practices are reviewed with the unions consistent with the recommendation of Justice Boland.

But Gosford being Gosford can't seem to do anything quickly and it led to an interesting communication as we tried to hurry things along with their Director of Organisational Development Terry Thirlwell. It certainly put a smile on the faces of our members at Gosford and after all of this thoughtful stuff it might put a smile on your face too.

We will meet with Gosford at the Local Government Association’s office as part of the review on 30 August.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Gosford has always been a very difficult and uncompromising Council to deal with.

It is the only Council where we had to use the Industrial Relations Commission to make them agree to a protocol in 2004 undertaking to respond to our letters. It’s the Council in 2002 that insisted on putting managers on contracts where we made them insert, for the first time, a clause saying that the contract would be renewed if the employee performed satisfactorily and it’s the Council, in 2000 after a long-running dispute involving depa complaints to WorkCover, we made spend $1.1 million on a new air-conditioning system in their Administrative Centre in Gosford.

All this time, the human resources management policies have been hard and unwavering.

On 29 July, the President of the Industrial Relations Commission Justice Boland, handed down a Statement and Recommendation in a dispute we had run for a member the subject of a clumsy, ineffective, biased, sub-professional and dawdling investigation.

Clearly there is a limit to how long even the most obstinate people can dig in and refuse to admit they were wrong. For Blayney Deputy Mayor Kevin "Big Kev" Radburn it was nine weeks.

It was nine weeks from his unacceptable behaviour at the 9 May meeting of Blayney Shire Council (where his observations, we believe breaching the Code of Conduct by attacking staff) and made after warnings by the Mayor until his letter to the General Manager on 19 July apologising and committing to trying to be good.

Amongst other things, Big Kev confessed:

"I now realise there may have been a better way of conveying my views to the meeting. It is obvious that the staff member has taken offence and that is a matter of regret to me. I also regret my words have been taken as an attack on the integrity of the employee concerned will stop I appreciate the efforts of staff and know we must all work together to provide good local government for Blayney Shire.

I am now better aware of my obligations in relation to Code of Conduct and staff interaction and I will be aware of those obligations in my future dealings with staff."

So, that's the way the dispute ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

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