BPB nails idiots at Griffith City Council

Well, it had to happen somewhere, but in all the years of BPB accreditation of council staff, the BPB has never found any cause for alarm in any Council.  That is, up until a recent investigation into work being carried out at Griffith that required BPB accreditation, but was carried out by people without that accreditation.

Here is a link to the BPB’s report.  It is relatively tight-lipped about how, when the BPB’s accreditation requirements are notorious in the industry, some people (who were not members of ours) ended up doing work which required BPB accreditation.  Those people reported to a Manager (who was not a member of ours) who seemed to think that all perfectly fine, and they in return reported to a Director (also not a member of ours) who seemed to have no awareness or concern, if he knew at all.

Clearly here is clear evidence of a direct causal relationship between doing something completely stupid and not being a member of ours but Griffith has always been a place reluctant to pay market rates of pay if they are required to attract and retain staff.

Whether they did try to attract staff who were BPB accredited, and simply couldn’t do so because they weren’t prepared to pay proper rates, and then decided to let anyone at all do the work, we don’t know.  But we will be engaging with the GM to try to find some kind of explanation about how this farce could roll out and how we can avoid it happening again, anywhere else. 

Griffith, and particularly the management at Griffith- the GM, Director and Manager - have let us all and the industry down.  What a significant cluster****.

Local government always said that the accreditation by the BPB of council staff was unnecessary.  There were sufficient checks and balances - of the qualifications and experience of people doing the work and their supervision by people who also had experience doing the work - for there to be more than enough proper governance and control of the process.  The reality was that the checks and balances applied by councils could never be matched by the private sector. 

And, despite the years of oversight by the BPB, the BPB was never able to find the industry lacking. 

Now they have.  All of those involved at Griffith let us all down.

Andrew Spooner resigns as President

Andrew Spooner

Andrew has been an active and enthusiastic contributor as a member of the Committee of Management, Vice President and President for two decades.  He has presided over all those significant industrial issues we have dealt with over that time, provided fair and balanced leadership, guidance and an overwhelming commitment to fairness at work and good receptive management which respects equitable treatment of staff.

So, it was with great disappointment that Andrew submitted his resignation as President and member of the Committee of Management last month.  We were all very, very sorry to see him go.  We wish him well.

The next elections for members of the Committee of Management will be held in March and April next year to elect those members for two-year terms to operate from 1 May 2018 and for the Secretary for a four-year term from that date as well. 

Rule 26.2 allows the Committee of Management to appoint to vacant offices and the Committee responded to Andrew’s resignation by unanimously resolving to appoint Vice President Jo Doheny as his replacement. 

Jo Doheny

Jo has been a member of the Committee of Management for six years, including four years as Vice President and brings significant experience from these roles, as well as her years as delegate at Gosford and a representative of the significant number of members we have at Central Coast Council, following the merger of Gosford and Wyong.

Having worked with Jo for many years in all of those capacities I look forward to developing our relationship and continuing to deliver reliable and even-handed services, without fear or favour, to our members. 

What is this thing called, love*?

LGNSW has, over the past twelve months, picked up a concept called a “Capability Framework” from the NSW Public sector, fiddled with it with its creator, and developed it to inflict on local government - as if the industry needs some other incomprehensible obstacle laid down in its path.

But despite decades of cooperation between LGNSW and the local government unions, we weren’t consulted - even though it was responded to coolly by the public sector unions when it was implemented some years ago in the State.

And despite two briefings by LGNSW zealots and the creator, it’s still hard to know. It also appears to overlap the skill descriptors - although LGNSW has been at pains to explain that it can’t and won’t be used for job evaluation, or progression in the salary system but it may (somehow) be used for recruitment and performance management.

It was revealing that at the time of the second briefing, while LGNSW recognised that the unions would be critical to an agreed approached about how this thing would be inflicted on the industry, we were told that it was at the printers.  Not so much getting invited late to the dance, but not getting an invitation to the dance in the first place, but a demand to clean up after.

So, we filed a dispute with LGNSW to try to slow down the HR and Management enthusiasts in the industry who may pick it up when it’s still not clear what it is and what it isn’t. Or what it’s for and what it isn’t.  The notification includes a desperate email stream to and from LGNSW trying to have those questions answered.

For those of you who may be fans of the brilliant satire, Utopia, it’s like the Defence Green Paper episode from the recently concluded series where no-one could understand the Paper. And when those in the Infrastructure Authority tried to understand it by bringing together those from the defence industry who had contributed, they could only explain it could only do so in jargon from the Green Paper itself that was, in turn, incomprehensible.

Our requests to stop the bloody thing roll out on an unsuspecting industry in proceedings before Chief Commissioner Kite on 10 October met with deaf ears but we were able to reach agreement that LGNSW would place a warning on their website that no one should proceed to use the Framework, even though it was already on their website, until further notice and until guidelines and precautions had been agreed to between LGNSW and the unions.

This is what the website now provides:

LGNSW advises councils that the LGNSW Capability Framework does not displace or override the Local Government (State) Award 2017 (“the Award”), and is not linked to the Award. The Award is the enforceable industrial instrument setting the minimum terms and conditions for the majority of local government employees in NSW.  The framework does not alter councils’ obligations to:

  • Evaluate positions in their structure in accordance with the Award's skill descriptors; and
  • Ensure progression through councils’ salary systems based on the acquisition and use of skills, or employee performance, provided that progression beyond the entry level based on the acquisition and use of skills is also available.

LGNSW recommends that councils not implement the framework as it relates to employees covered by the Award until the implementation tools and resources have been developed and published.

For further advice on implementing the framework in compliance with the Award's provisions please contact the LGNSW Industrial Unit on 02 9242 4142.

Clearly it would have been smarter for LGNSW to bring the unions into the loop much, much earlier.

(*Yes, this is a poor misuse of the title of Cole Porter’s classic song, “What is This Thing Called Love?” Sorry about that.)

And members respond brilliantly

The point of the email sent on 17 October was to prepare ourselves in anticipation that the Superannuation Fund or councils could argue that salary or superannuation information is confidential to employees and we don’t get access to it without the employee authorising us to have access.

At the time of this depaNews going out, 97 members have responded and while a few of them are people who left those schemes sometime between 2003 and now (and we will get to after resolving the principles for the active members) that gives us more than 90 members prepared for depa to be authorised to have access to information that might be claimed by a Council or LGS as being private or confidential to the extent necessary to resolve the dispute. 

And it also makes it clear that of the 41 councils represented by the responses from those 97 members, only the former Kogarah, Sutherland and Parkes have included a value for private use.  A few of the responses are from members who thought their council had, but we really do need some evidence to show that they did.

We have not yet begun to fight.

Like getting blood from a stone...

The merger of the former Kogarah with the former Hurstville to create Georges River has highlighted an issue potentially affecting hundreds of employees in the industry.

We emailed all members on 17 October to bring everyone into the loop on this but it is an issue which affects only those members of the LGS Retirement Scheme or the Defined Benefits Scheme.  Both those schemes have a concept of “superable salary” and rules requiring councils in calculating the superable salary of a member of those funds, to include the “value on the private-use of an employer-provided vehicle”.

Kogarah did but Hurstville didn’t.

It does seem improbable, doesn’t it, that a union official who scored 23 for Maths in the Higher School Certificate (out of 130, no less) should find, investigate and pursue a solution to something that no one else seems to have noticed, and if they did, they did nothing about.  More about LGSS later.

Councils which haven’t included a value on the private use of a Council car have failed to comply with the rules of the Fund, have underpaid superannuation contributions as a consequence since 2003 and have therefore underpaid retirement and exit benefits as well.

As an example, we have a member at Georges River from the former Kogarah, for whom the removal of that value for the final 2.5 years of his employment (something Georges River is not proposing) would cost him more than $40,000 when he retires at the end of 2020. For those employees in those schemes who have had a council car, this is worth investigating.

depa filed a dispute with LGNSW* on 28 September and before the dispute came before Chief Commissioner Kite SC on 18 October there had already been two meetings of the unions with Local Government Super and LGNSW.  Our expectation (probably more correctly expressed as our hope) was that this matter, although complex and potentially requiring complicated calculations about retrospective entitlement, could be resolved quite simply.

(Please note that if you are going to read the dispute notification, the reference to this issue also applying to those employees not in the old closed schemes, who receive the Superannuation Guarantee, is incorrect.  This information came from what was said by LGS in their Employers’ Guide to be information from the ATO website.  It was not.  The first of our LGS disappointments...)

All we needed was the Superannuation Fund and the employers’ organisation to agree that there was a problem which needed to be investigated and, once it was investigated, we would know how big the problem was and all be equally committed to finding a solution.

At our first meeting, LGS took the view that it was a matter between the employer and employees, and LGNSW expressed the view that it was a matter between LGS and employees, it was clear it wasn’t going to be that simple.  LGNSW had already sent advice about the dispute to HR Managers and GMs and LGS needed to do similarly.  It was clear that things got worse the longer the meeting went and it made sense for us to all go away and think about things and we agreed to meet again in a week.

But it got worse at the second meeting when LGS told us that while there were 4500 active members of those funds left in the industry, they wouldn’t tell us what councils they worked at.  It was confidential, apparently, making it a very difficult issue to resolve.

It’s also nonsense, isn’t it - the idea that the Fund responsible for providing a superannuation benefit to employees based upon its own rules, would not provide the simple numbers so we knew where to look.  LGS is the only organisation that knows where the 4500 members of those two funds are employed.  That sort of thing makes people suspicious about their motivation.  You would have thought they would have a handle on whether councils were complying with the Fund’s own rules...

When the dispute did proceed in the Industrial Relations Commission on 18 October, the Chief Commissioner thought it appropriate under section 132(1) of the Industrial Relations Act to direct depa, as the notifier of the dispute, to “invite” the “proper person” from LGS to attend on the next occasion.  This section of the Act allows members of the Commission to “require the attendance of any person whose presence the Commission considers would help in the resolution of the dispute.”

So depa invited LGS to provide the proper person, or persons, and to that invitation was attached an extract of the transcript of the proceedings in which the Chief Commissioner made it clear that if the invitation was declined, then a summons would be prepared to have a “proper person” attend anyway.

Withholding information that should be readily available is one thing, but being summonsed and dragged in chains to the IRC and made to “help in the resolution of the dispute” is another. 

We return to the Commission, with the new CEO of LGS and the Head of Governance attending without the need for a summons, on 3 November.  We can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

depa's responsibility to look after our members’ social interests without discrimination

Our rules broadly define our purpose and objects to uphold, advance and protect the interests of members, "including industrial, social, economic and professional development interests".

It was under this broad purpose in the 1980s that we deleted all the sex-specific pronouns in our rules. We then went on to delete sex-specific pronouns in all of the Awards in the industry - all because we had an increasing number of women who were members but our rules and the industrial awards in the industry presumed that everyone was a bloke.

Everything was he, his - never she, never hers.

This was a bold thing for what was pretty much an old blokes’ club of building surveyors at the time with 20 or so women members. But it showed that even the old blokes got the idea that things needed to be fair and that no one's treatment should be otherwise.

Now we are watching unseemly brawling and unsettling discussions as people justify why other people, with different sexual identities, should be denied equal treatment under the law.

depa doesn’t discriminate, we are committed to ensuring that you all receive fair treatment at work and, whenever the opportunity arises, in public debate and public policy. It's part of our responsibility to care for and look after your social interests.

I'll be returning my survey with a yes.

So will all my family (including my gay sister and her partner who have been together for four decades and should be an inspiration to heterosexual couples who can't last a few years - making it both extraordinary and grossly unfair their union can't include marriage if they want it), my 93 year-old mum, my wife Elizabeth, my kids (not Ben, who is only seven but lost his favourite chef, a French bloke, who had to go back to France because he wanted to marry his boyfriend and couldn't do it in Australia. So Ben discovered the concept of marriage equality very, very early and thinks it unfair the ABS won’t ask him), and so will Margaret, her husband and kids and her 90 year-old mum.

So will all of the members of our Committee of Management.

And so will lots and lots of our members - probably consistent with the 70% support opinion polling finds but, knowing them as I do and their own interest in fairness at work, I hope a higher percentage.

Let's be fair and let's do the right thing for everyone. Go on.

Yes, for marriage equality

(This was originally sent by the Secretary Ian Robertson to all members by individual email on 14 September and is updated here to include the support of the Committee.)

Are you okay?

We’ve had members suffering from anxiety and depression about their work and personal lives and been involved in assisting those members at work on many, many occasions. We’ve now had one Council accept a workers compensation claim from one of our members based on harassment and bullying by management, and we know that many of you suffer - and often suffer alone.

Most people who know someone who has suicided are shocked and surprised. They wish they had asked the right questions.

RUOK? began in 1995 when a bloke called Barry Larkin, a much-loved father, took his own life, devastating his family and friends. The family, his son in particular, started the movement to get people to look after each other a bit better. It’s RUOK? Day on 10 September, so you should ask someone at work.

But there is a more personal option affecting our members.

Walk and Talk is an initiative by some members to get people together for a casual one-hour walk to talk about mental health and suicide, to encourage conversation and listening between people to avoid suicide and try to reduce mental health issues.

The event was triggered and organised by a group of building surveyors, EHOs and planners who lost a popular, well-liked and valued friend and colleague to suicide in the last year. depa is only more than happy to assist and publicise the initiative and the event. He was a member of ours as well and we only wish we could have helped.

Here is the full page invitation but in short, if you think you could do with the comfort of this kind of experience or you’d like to provide a comfort of your own to those who may need it, or you could do with a walk and some conversation on a Saturday morning, be at Parc Menai down in the Shire at 9am on Saturday 24 September. It’s not a fundraiser, it is a great mental health and wellbeing initiative.

And I will see you there.

Look out, the ******** and ********* might be back...

Oh no, it’s now less than two weeks until the local government elections. All manner of boofheads, corruption-allegers, one issue zealots, closet developers, lying developers, and the self-interested are lining up. What a pleasant respite it has been for those in the merged councils. Administrators taking notice of staff recommendations and adopting them, no councillor pressure, no councillors failing to declare their property interests, none of the things that give local government a bad reputation.

We understand the complications of being involved in the assessing of DAs. For every successful applicant there are invariably unsuccessful objectors and that creates a pool of people interested in getting even. And vice versa. Despite Codes of Conduct we know councillors pressure staff, threaten staff and try to have staff members sacked.

depa and its members have now for more than a decade taken action to support members against unreasonable treatment of councillors. We first placed a ban on a councillor in 2000 at Parramatta where the boofhead in a public meeting bagged a couple of our members. We extracted an apology. We’ve taken similar action at Mudgee and Nambucca against developers, at Eurobodalla against a councillor, bans were placed on certain work at Parramatta again in 2009 and last year against the recidivist councillor who may well be back after 9 September (but at Cumberland, so at Parramatta they can breathe easier) and we will continue to do so.

If you’re reading this but not a member, it’s time to get on board. Being a professional working in local government is far too unpredictable to be doing it without our protection.

“Like a dog returning to its vomit…”

Greens member of the Legislative Council David Shoebridge summarised the decades of messy planning law considerations by the NSW Government in the second reading speech for the Environmental Planning and Assessment and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Planning Panels and Enforcement) Bill 2017, on 9 August:

This Parliament is like a dog returning to its vomit when it comes to planning laws; it just keeps going back and looking at the same ugly mess that previous governments have made.

Hard to argue with that. And for those of you who think it a little unseemly to be publishing a quote about dogs’ vomit, and because we take our responsibilities seriously to educate people in depaNews as well as entertain, inform and prepare you for Trivia nights, the full quote comes from the Christian Bible - Proverbs chapter 26 verse 11, to be precise. While older versions of the book regard the dog and the fool as male, the modern versions make it less gender specific:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

Here is a link to David Shoebridge’s speech. It’s a great speech.

While the Government’s legislation went through both Houses unamended, the critical issue is going to be how these IHAPS work and how the Minister for Planning, who will be responsible for managing the membership of the Panels, will do that in a way which provides true independence.

In the Media Release issued on 8 August the two Ministers reveal an anxiety about a conflict of interest for the “council or developer” driving this proposal but there seems little concern for managing “independent” members of IHAPs to ensure that they don’t have a conflict of interest either. It will be difficult for members of IHAPs, consultant planners, architects, heritage experts or whatever to not be keeping a wary eye out for future client needs as these DAs roll across their desks.

But we have a suggestion to make. depa is well placed, drawing upon the expertise of planning staff across councils in NSW, to be able to assist the Minister for Planning in making these decisions. We would happily participate in consultation with the Minister, feeding in any information we may have from our members about proposed members of Panels, their connections to developers, any slavish servitude to the Property Council, previous whiffy clients, or whatever. We should have a right of veto, just like members of the Security Council at the UN do.

We’ll put this proposal to the Minister and see what he thinks.

The community must be confident about the independence of these experts making decisions. While our proposal for council staff making the decisions is built on the assumption that Council employees don’t have a vested interest in whether development proceeds or not, just whether it complies with the planning instrument, we need the same assurance for these independent panels.

It’s a reasonable concern that on a four person panel, if there are to be three “independent expert members”, that they are really independent experts. A fourth member is intended to be a local representative within the LGA “to provide local perspective,” whatever that is. The reality is that the local perspective is provided by the planning instrument. At least councillors are prohibited from sitting, the Government clearly having a concluded view about the value of elected representatives providing a local perspective

The two ministers announced that IHAPs members “will have to be expert in one or more of the following fields: planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design, economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering, tourism, or government and public administration.” At least membership of the Property Council or the Urban Design Institute is not a pre-requisite, so it could be worse. They could probably scratch out economics and tourism from that list – a bit too close to the market and a step away from understanding planning instruments.

But Councils already have employees considering and assessing DAs with those skills, experience and background. The Government has the numbers, the rollout will proceed but we will be keeping an eye on who the Minister endorses as members of Panels and keeping a record of how they deal with staff recommendations. Let’s see if they’re any better.

Get your own ideas!

On 26 July the last depaNews was published proposing cutting councillors out of development assessment. We gave plenty of good reasons and dared you all to give us three good reasons why councillors should have anything to do with considering a DA.

We didn’t receive one good reason. And that included us broadcasting the issue to the board of LGNSW who, neither collectively nor individually, could come up with a good reason and convey it to us. They were speechless.

In the interests of disclosure though, one of our members provided two good reasons - first, “because it is so often immensely amusing” and second, because “they make planners feel smart”. Yes we know, that really goes without saying, doesn’t it.

But clearly we started something didn’t we. The following day the Government made two announcements about local government.

The first, and most relevant to what had been an unshakeable commitment by the NSW Government while Mike Baird was Premier, was to announce the abandonment of those amalgamations that were pending and the subject of a variety of litigation. Not for Gladys any conviction when it’s unpopular, if it’s unpopular then it’s time to abandon it.

And we would assume that because the legal challenges were primarily about the failure of the Government it was never going to end well. Who needs to get rolled in the High Court because the authoritarian bureaucrats in the Department of Premier and Cabinet insisted the financial analysis in the KPMG report had to be confidential, raising issues of procedural fairness. And potentially the same bureaucrats couldn’t find the right part of the Local Government Act to amalgamate one local government area and the remainder of another, once a section was “excised“ from Hornsby and given to Parramatta City. Not a lot of smart people involved in those decisions.

And the second, and most relevant to our proposed course of action, was the announcement that Cabinet that day was going to consider “stripping councils of DA approval powers”. While the Herald did claim that it would be “reconsideration” (because there had been rumours of this occurring back in May but the Government not having the appetite for it) that doesn’t really count.

The expose in the Sydney Morning Herald about the ongoing ICAC investigation into planning decisions at the former Canterbury Council was the catalyst. The Government had to think again about the issue but with a reasonable expectation of some kind of emotional support from the Opposition. As the Herald made clear, those planning decisions, rejecting the recommendations of staff, were made by an untraditional alliance of ALP and Liberal councillors - add a couple of floors here, blow out the floor space ratio there, on and on.

But, that will teach us, next time we’ll shred all of those brainstorming documents we have about building a better world now we know they go through our recycling.

The Herald was right, Cabinet did consider establishing IHAPs on 27 July but the decision was deferred - they say, to allow consultation with the developers (that is, the Property Council), the ICAC and local government. Whether they did, or whether they didn’t, the Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing Anthony Roberts and the Minister the Local Government Gabrielle Upton were able to jointly announce on 8 August that IHAPs would be introduced for Sydney councils.

The Government claimed that Wollongong and 15 Sydney Metropolitan councils were already voluntarily and successfully using IHAPs and the Bill to be introduced into parliament would make it mandatory for all councils in the Greater Sydney area and Wollongong, because Wollongong wanted to be part of it.

While a real independent IHAP would be a qualitative and significant improvement in the assessment and consideration of DAs, and where we are entitled to expect significant levels of acceptance of the recommendations of planning staff, just who the Government thinks will be “independent” enough is their next challenge.

I’ve got a Deed of Release - lessons to be learned from Amber Harrison

It’s a regular experience in our office to negotiate people out of councils, for a variety of reasons including redundancies, where the settlement reached is wrapped up in a Deed of Release. It’s a standard provision in a Deed of Release that both the employee and the Council acknowledge the confidentiality of the settlement, waive any other industrial or common law rights of redress (other than workers compensation) and accept a mutual no disparagement clause. A Deed protects the confidentiality of the settlement and prevents the parties bagging each other.

Sometimes our members ask how binding these provisions are but if those provisions are breached, then the Council can take legal action to seek redress. Fortunately this hasn’t happened. If the Council breaches the provisions of the Deed, then the employee can take legal action. It’s an agreed mutual obligation.

But if we needed a reminder about the importance of complying with confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions, it was delivered in the sordid battleground following an affair between Channel Seven CEO Tim Worner and a staff member Amber Harrison in the last weeks. The Supreme Court found that Ms Harrison had breached confidentiality provisions and done a whole range of things which Ms Harrison had agreed in a Deed of Release not to do - in return for some hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What can only be described as astonishing levels of legal costs incurred by Channel 7 in defending the obligations contained within the Deed have now been ordered by the Court to be paid by Ms Harrison. Ms Harrison says it will bankrupt her.

While there are some critics of this prurient exercise as it played out like some tacky Hollywood reality show that the “Boys Club wins”, the underlying lesson to be learned by everyone is that if you sign a Deed of Release requiring you to keep things confidential and not disparage anyone, you had bloody well better do so.

Enough is enough – it’s time to cut councillors out of development assessment

We dare you, give us three good reasons why councillors should have anything to do with considering a DA.

The twenty new merged councils have demonstrated how planning and DA assessment should operate. No councillors getting in the way, or failing to declare an interest, or denying they’re a developer, or trying to compromise the professional advice of staff on whether an application does, or doesn’t, comply with the planning instrument.

No Administrator has rejected advice from their assessment staff, Council meetings are short, vested interests don’t get in the way and those twenty councils have been able to restore the integrity of the process where it was needed - like Georges River (with ex Hurstville), Cumberland (with ex Auburn) and Canterbury-Bankstown (with ex Canterbury).

If Administrators can do it, why can’t councillors?

We know why. There have been far too many examples of councils exercising a power, corruptly or otherwise, to reject the advice of the planning staff and in doing so provide massive capital gains and bonuses to developers through improved floor space ratio, or a couple of additional floors. In this article we make no allegations of corruption, but it’s abundantly clear that councillors fiddling in areas they shouldn’t be involved invariably provides bad planning decisions- too big, too bulky, too tall.

We get the idea of local democracy. Councillors are elected to be involved in a consultative way with their communities to develop planning instruments but, given what we know now, that has to be the end of their involvement. It’s the role of staff to ensure that applications processed are consistent with the instruments, or they don’t get approved.

Isn’t it time for the integrity of the planning system to come to grips with the difficult questions - why do councillors have any role at all in planning assessment? Why not keep councillors out of planning assessment? What sense does it make to have a planning instrument developed in consultation with the community and then allow a council to override it?

And the Land and Environment Court has been reluctant to intervene in decisions taken by councils where, even if there is an element of corruption established, some lucky developer has started the job and there is no going back. It’s not good enough.

The public enquiry into Auburn, toothless and without a capacity to require witnesses to answer questions as it was, nevertheless revealed the contemptuous attitude of councillors to the advice of their professional staff. Even those under the thumb and coerced into doing things that shouldn’t be done. Ex-councillor Ned Attie (and former Mayor) made numerous damning and contemptuous admissions about planning reports which, he acknowledged he may not have always read, or he may have “skimmed through” or, famously, “I don’t normally ask for any staff views”.

When there is a planning instrument established, whether it’s resolved by the Council or whether it’s resolved by the State, councillors should never, ever have the power to reject recommendations of staff or to override them. It should all be done by delegation. Imagine that, keeping the elected representatives focused on policy and letting the professional staff get on with ensuring it’s managed properly.

We know that there are merged councils concerned that after the elections on 9 September, one of the first things some councils may do is to look at pulling those delegations back. Remember, many of the scumbags will be back and looking for business as usual.

It must be one of the State’s worst kept secrets that the ICAC has been investigating decisions of the former Canterbury Council which have massively overdeveloped parts of the municipality - decisions which always involved the rejection of staff recommendations in favour of the developer, and never, ever in favour of the community or the neighbours. And certainly not in favour of better planning, amenity or aesthetics.

Towards the end of 2016 it was expected that a public enquiry would be announced in February or March but while we know that ICAC investigations continued, it was not until the Sydney Morning Herald on 15-16 July published on the front page “ICAC takes on Sydney’s biggest Council”, that we saw some real detail of what had been happening.

And what a story. The highly regarded investigative journalist Kate McClymont wrote of a number of decisions of the Council affecting Canterbury Road and Charles Street which saw an unusual alliance of some Liberal and Labor councillors to approve developments which the Council’s planning staff had rejected.

Canterbury-Bankstown Administrator Richard Colley (a former GM of Bankstown) confirmed that ICAC came knocking on his door in June last year. “When I first took up this role it became apparent that there were a number of properties on Canterbury Road and close by that had compromised policies of the previous Canterbury Council.” The Herald quotes Mr Colley as confirming there were a number of developments in “that very important corridor” which had breached Council’s policies “fairly dramatically in terms of bulk, scale and height.”

What is this other than free kicks to developers and a flagrant disregard for planning instruments?

But it doesn’t end there. An ex-councillor, Con Vasiliades watched on (as he often does having declared a big interest in eleven properties) as, after a brief advertising campaign the Council sold some public space they owned in Kingsgrove Road, Belmore, to his father George (a real estate agent) and George (who would have guessed!), now has development approval to build a four story block of flats which exceeds the Council’s height limits. The Herald claimed that both Con and his brother Will are likely Liberal candidates 9 September.

The Herald claimed that another property believed to be investigated by the ICAC is an old hardware store site at 548 Canterbury Road, Campsie. This was bought by a developer in November 2014 for $14 million and sold on to a Queensland developer last month for $52.8 million after the Council approved an extra two floors on top of an existing approval for a six floor, 254-unit complex in another approval that exceeded the Council’s height restrictions.

Enough, is enough.

depa will now prepare a Discussion Paper on the concept of removing any capacity for an elected Council to make any decision about a DA. Unrestrained by current legislative provisions, this will be a real greenfield/blue sky exercise (for want of better clichés) or, in the words of Garry Payne, when he was Director-General of the DLG, “if you came down from Mars and looked at this, you’d wonder how it ever happened”.

The time might be right. The Liberals and Labor are both anxious about any public investigation of the former Canterbury and what may be revealed, but we know neither are really capable of fixing the planning system because they’re all beholden, one way or another, to the development industry.

Maybe this is the time to fix the development assessment process once and for all.

We will look at options after decisions have been made which look suspect and which involve rejecting staff recommendations but ideally, a total prohibition against elected councils considering DA’s, or spot zonings or, maybe other things, is the way to go. Something has to be done to stop the decisions being made.

We want to hear from you. What would you prevent a Council from considering?

And as a motivator, here are six good reasons why something has to be done.

Do yourself a favour

We provide members with a reward if they encourage new members to join by providing a bottle of wine for every two members nominated. In the lead up to seeing what sort of councillors we end up with in September, and the need for employees in the difficult areas where our members work to be protected, it gets even better.

We will provide a bottle of good wine for every member nominated. So get recruiting, and we’ll send you something nice for dinner. Or dinners, if you go hard for it.

Molly would be thrilled.

Uh oh, …

Only a couple of months for local government elections in September 2017 which will see elections for the first time in the twenty merged councils.

The mergers, which involved the sacking of Auburn, Hurstville and Parramatta, to nominate just three at random, meant that councillors who were making life hard for nearly everyone as they looked after their own interests were sacked - to be replaced by administrators to act as the Council to merge the previously existing local governments into larger, more vibrant and better financed organisations.

But there is significant speculation some of those councillors mercifully removed by the proclamation may be back. We have been critical of the soft provisions of the Local Government Act which led to an inability to remove councillors behaving badly. Short periods of suspension which are voided by councils being sacked mean that, unlike the rugby league season when you are penalised and the suspension and the games missed carries over to the next season, these people just get away with it.

And the courts, whether it be NCAT on appeal or the Supreme Court, show a reluctance to support the standing down of democratically elected people, regardless of their behaviour, simply because they are democratically elected. The fact that idiots, shonks, dodgy closet developers, bullies, Code of Conduct breachers, those who fail to declare financial interests, self-seekers and crooks are elected democratically doesn’t provide them with a halo, or a mantel of respectability.

Something has to be done.

Next month, we’ll run through a few of the suspensions and also our proud history of implementing bans and supporting members as they stand up for themselves against unacceptable Councillor behaviour. We’ve been doing it for more than a decade, we shouldn’t have to do, but more next month.

It’s also time to remind members that the best thing you can do for your workmates, because you never really know how councils will be constituted in a couple of months’ time, is to encourage them to join depa and get with the strength. Do your friends a favour and you can do yourself a favour as well.

We accept LGNSW offer for a new State Award

On 2 June, the LGNSW Board endorsed an offer to be made to the three unions for the new 2017 Local Government State Award. This was formally provided to the unions late that afternoon.

The offer was individually emailed to members at 9:20am on Monday 5 June (not a bad turnaround, early in the morning of the next business day) with an explanatory email and three links. The first, a nine page attachment identifying the changes and particularly those that would provide benefits to our members, the second a copy of what the Award would look like with the proposed changes marked up and the third, the recommended Guidelines on Workplace Investigations.

We acknowledge the contribution of Lake Macquarie Council - in conducting such a heinous, prejudicial and clumsy investigation last year - that we felt obliged to pursue twelve fundamental requirements of procedural fairness which was supported by the other unions and ultimately also by LGNSW and they found their way both into the Award and by reference into the Guidelines. No more hanging prosecutors/judges when Lake Macquarie complies with these guidelines next time they conduct a workplace investigation and, if they do train people who revealed shortcomings in the exercise, no more nominations for the Golden Turd either.

Members had the opportunity of responding to the documents up until the close of business on Wednesday 14 June and the recommendation was made to the Committee, providing each of the individual responses from members so that the Committee would be aware of the feedback, to accept the offer.

The Committee of Management has now unanimously accepted the offer in an email and a letter with our characteristic clarity.

It’s no secret that we were disappointed at the way LGNSW conducted the negotiations. While we look forward to the Award being made now by Commissioner Murphy in the IRC on 30 June, and there is little point complaining about the change of historic attitude evidenced by the behaviour of the LGNSW, we hope next time that we can resort to the cooperation historically provided by LGNSW rather than the unhelpful attitude displayed this time.

More Articles ...

  1. Courts nail clumsy and secretive handling of Council mergers
  2. We don’t like being gagged and we pull the pin on the EMRG
  3. Nine days to go …
  4. The Hills Shire embraces commitment to health and wellbeing in 2017 Enterprise Agreement
  5. A Tale of Two Cities
  6. Cripes, where was the compassion?
  7. Ex-Mayor of Hurstville exits with his tail between his legs
  8. OLG forced to state the bleeding obvious on employment protection
  9. LGNSW backflips on decades of cooperation
  10. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Gladys
  11. Next month ...
  12. What would Mike Baird have done?
  13. Uh oh ...
  14. The sharks are circling
  15. And that’s pretty much the end of the year for us...
  16. Who has the worst HR in local government in 2016?
  17. Who has the worst HR in local government this year?
  18. Are things going any better at Sydney City with their asbestos contamination?
  19. We give OLG’s Employment Reference Group another chance
  20. The Ascension marks the death of the historic IRC
  21. depa’s prestigious HR Awards will be announced next month
  22. BPB gets their fingers out on what should happen with PINs
  23. Ignore Henny Penny, there has been progress in State Award negotiations
  24. Sydney mishandles asbestos contamination in Town Hall House
  25. A facade, is always just a facade...
  26. Who would have thought! Private certifiers need better regulation …
  27. Government dismantles Industrial Relations Commission
  28. We stop Government’s secret processes in merged councils
  29. What are “workplace representatives” for on Consultative Committees?
  30. Government picks up the pace on dismantling IRC
  31. Get ready, we’re about to start negotiating the 2017 State Award
  32. Sick of politicians? We are …
  33. Government to dismantle Industrial Relations Commission of NSW
  34. Mid-Western Council receives ICAC report
  35. “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
  36. Food Regulation Forum
  37. Not so fast, the dilettantes and dabblers are still at it
  38. Employment Matters Working Party clarifies the protections under the Act
  39. Senior staff jobs go in amalgamations and the hero is Viv the Vivisector
  40. Early elections, bring back local democracy!
  41. You’d have to be a mug not to join
  42. Happy birthday, Mike
  43. Now we can all be miners, NSW Government announces
  44. NSW Government announces broad expansion of exempt and complying development
  45. PIA NSW did what?
  46. 2016 depa elections delivers four new brooms
  47. We extend our legal services to members
  48. 2016 elections for the Committee of Management
  49. Council amalgamations provide “a good night out” for old folks
  50. “Come on Barry, give me a cuddle”
  51. Some great news for Catherine
  52. LGNSW and the three unions meet about IPART recommendation 30 and protecting senior staff
  53. Ex Planning Minister attacks extensions to exempt and complying development
  54. Shoalhaven wins Worst HR in Local Government Award 2015
  55. Anyone for golf?
  56. We settle our section 106 with Mid-Western
  57. Fit for the Future
  58. Who has the worst HR in local government in 2015?
  59. HR awards issue out on Tuesday
  60. IRC survives to be dismantled another day
  61. Chinese hackers embarrass LGNSW and LGMA
  62. Councillors behaving badly - bans on at Parramatta
  63. Here comes the knockout punch
  64. But some good news too - use this template if your Council wants to give you five years protection against forced redundancy
  65. Time is ticking away
  66. Something to put a smile on your faces - we may have found local government’s dumbest
  67. We file section 106 for the unfair sacking at Mid-Western
  68. NSW Government to shut down Industrial Relations Commission
  69. Anyone there?
  70. Mixed reception to IPART Report
  71. Better than Nostradamus
  72. Mid-Western GM sacks two directors - and one of them was ours
  73. In such a hostile world, who wouldn’t want a guardian angel?
  74. Any action from people we rely upon to properly regulate the industry?
  75. And what about one or two good news stories?
  76. Tamworth GM drops off on removing the nine day fortnight from existing staff
  77. Next month …
  78. Why is the Office of Local Government protecting Jilly Gibson? Or is the Minister thinking a few moves ahead?
  79. Uh oh, look out!
  80. Has Local Government Super dumped uranium and nuclear yet?
  81. We hate it when members disappear – and it wastes our time too
  82. depa’s submission to the Legislative Council Local Government Enquiry
  83. We drag the dawdlers at Sydney City into the modern world (and watch them waste a good employee)
  84. A message to the Minister and the Office of Local Government
  85. Reviewing our rules is much more exciting than watching paint dry
  86. We are updating our rules
  87. Review of the BPB
  88. Old blokes collapse and let Mum keep working part-time
  89. Tamworth brings in the big guns
  90. Got the boss's job at last and don’t need us anymore?
  91. Fit for the Future
  92. John Howard sees silver lining after Malcolm Fraser’s death
  93. South Africa stripped of World Cup placing
  94. The Government clarifies the sale of Poles and Wires
  95. Government bans the words “bad for the budget”
  96. “New South Wales is open for business” Baird Liberal/Coalition Government commits to dramatic initiatives
  97. Election Special
  98. NSW election on Saturday 28 March
  99. Who wouldn’t like to hit a ball into this beautiful lake?
  100. And now back to the 19th century when mothers knew their place
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