Council to cut top jobs

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

4 comments
Whanganui District Council chief executive Kym Fell WGP 13Apr16 - Kym Fell
Whanganui District Council chief executive Kym Fell WGP 13Apr16 - Kym Fell

Several top management positions at the Whanganui District Council will be culled under a radical reorganisation drawn up by chief executive officer Kym Fell.

Mr Fell outlined his plans to staff yesterday. Once he has their feedback, he will decide whether or not to push through with the changes.

Chief executive for just five months, his plan aims to "reduce the bureaucracy and streamline" the council's management. It means getting rid of a number of senior management positions and creating a number of new ones.

But assuming the plan is implemented, it will save the council more than $1 million in personnel costs over the next three years.

Jobs currently held by Julian Harkness (deputy CEO and finance manager), Sally Patrick (community and cultural group manager) and her deputy Pete Gray, are tagged to be disestablished and not replaced (see sidebar for full breakdown).

The deputy corporate services/finance manager position (Mike Fermor) will be replaced by a new position of general manager of finance.

And the position of group manager of property (Rowan McGregor) will go, replaced by a special projects manager.

Also being disestablished is the position of deputy property manager (Leighton Toy), with the position of general manager of property replacing that.

Another post tagged to go is the group manager of human resources (Danny Harrison) but Mr Fell's plan sees that position replaced by a general manager of people and culture.

Titles will change for two other senior managers. Charlotte Almond (group manager of strategy and development) will become general manager of strategy and Mark Hughes (group manager of infrastructure) will become general manager infrastructure.

The chief executive's strategy also sees the creation of a new role of general manager of operations, with oversight of municipal facilities along with Civil Defence, health and safety, and community services such as the city libraries.

A cultural advisers role (kaiwhakahaere) is already budgeted within the council's Annual Plan.

Mr Fell said all staff would have the opportunity to apply for the new roles being created.

"It's my aim to retain as many people as possible within the organisation. However, for some people these changes may be significant and they may decide to opt not to take on new positions."

He said there was a general feeling for a need to change, both in and out of the council, and he had made it a priority since he took on the chief executive position.

"While there are aspects of our performance which are progressing positively, there is also a widespread expectation from councillors, ratepayers and residents that we need to improve our performance," he said.

And he said staff had also expressed a desire for improved leadership to meet the needs of the community.

Mr Fell said some of the management structures now in place were unnecessary given the way the council does its business today, "and they create barriers for getting things done".

"It's not a reflection on the individuals concerned. It's about ensuring we have an organisation that can respond nimbly to current and future needs."

He said the next step was to get feedback from staff, and if he decided to press on with the changes they would take effect relatively quickly.

"I believe (the changes) will demonstrate to the public that we are an effective organisation willing to make changes so we can better deliver services that meet the community's needs and aspirations," he said.

He used an independent Auckland company to look at his plan and it was comfortable with the process being followed.

Mr Fell acknowledged the plan would "rattle a lot of cages" but it had to happen: "The amount of bureaucracy is simply far too involved."

He has had roles in change management before so this is not new ground for him. He introduced $6.6 million in personnel savings over six years within Auckland's regional facilities.

"The bottom line is we've got to make change to a structure that is far too complex for what's required for a district of this size. It's about thinking and acting smarter, and being less of a burden on the ratepayers."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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