Getting a handle on council controlled boards

By John Maslin

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A new manual gives guidelines for the way council controlled organisations work. Photo/Bevan Conley
A new manual gives guidelines for the way council controlled organisations work. Photo/Bevan Conley

The Whanganui District Council has approved a new manual which sets the ground rules for council controlled organisations.

The new manual will initially be applied to Whanganui and Partners, the organisation that overseas economic activity for the council. But eventually the guidelines will cover all council controlled organisations (CCOs), including their accountability, reporting requirements, remuneration and appointment of board members.

Kym Fell, council's chief executive officer, said a council workshop had considered the policy but he believed there was a need for council to hold a more comprehensive workshop on what its expectations were for Whanganui and Partners.

"It's about having the right directions, leadership and transparency," Mr Fell said.

The governance structure was modelled on what he had seen working in Auckland "but down-sized to suit our community".

"The next step is what council expects Whanganui and Partners to deliver."

Councillor Rob Vinsen said a significant addition to the model is the amount board members would be paid but said he was happy with what was being suggested (see sidebar).

Mr Fell said he believed it was worthwhile to have a board and with a broad community representation.

"This policy is about making things a lot clearer but it's also about getting the statement of intent right," he said.

Mayor Annette Main said council needed to address the issue of financial backing for Whanganui and Partners "because the current budget doesn't reflect what Whanganui and Partners is trying to deliver".

Mr Fell said essentially this was about the economic well-being of the community.

"At the moment it's being run on the smell of an oily rag," he said.

Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said she supported the idea in principle but said she had "issues" with the policy. One of those was about delegating power away from the elected council.

"It does need further work because it's gone too far as far as I'm concerned," she said.

Councillor Sue Westwood said some roles of Whanganui and Partners and Whanganui District Council Holdings needed to be more clearly defined because she worried about putting council assets in the hands of non-elected people "and there's a risk involved in that".

Ms Main said she had no issue with Holdings' role and didn't see any confusion there "but it's critical we get the right people on board".

When it came to the vote all but Mrs Baker-Hogan approved the policy.

The new manual outlines remuneration, and while this "reflected" the element of public service it was below that paid for comparable private sector entities. The council sets those fees.

HOW IT WORKS

* A minimum of six four-hour confidential meetings each year and a minimum of three one-hour open public meetings, and one strategic workshop each year

* Board members will be paid $500 for confidential meetings, $625 for the public meetings and $750 for the workshop but the maximum paid in one year will be $5939.

* Like the board chairperson, members are only paid if they attend more than 75 per cent of each board meeting

* Board chairs will be paid $750 for confidential meetings, $937 for each public meeting and $750 for the workshop. Chairs will also receive an annual expenses allowance of $1383.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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