LEAKED REPORT: 42 council jobs may go, $2-3 million savings a year

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Queenstown’s council op­­eration can shed 42 positions and save millions annually – whilst improving customer service, a leaked draft report into proposed restructuring claims. 

The consultation document – released to all council employees on Tuesday and leaked to Mountain Scene – trumpets savings of $2 million to $3m a year in the short-term if all its recommendations are adopted. 

The comprehensive 265-page report proposes a new slimmed-down integrated council structure. 

As it stands, the equivalent of 265.98 full-time positions exist across the council and its two council controlled organisations (CCO) – regulatory body Lakes Environmental, and recreation and venues operator Lakes Leisure. 
That drops to 224.14 under the proposed review, which has been done on the assumption both CCOs would be disestablished – as council decided two weeks ago. 

Bigger cost reductions – on top of the estimated $2-$3m – could be realised in the longer term as council increases its capabilities, the report summary says, before promising: “These changes can occur without any compromise to service standards. 

“There are many areas where staff resources are not used efficiently. Better multi-tasking, fewer silos, judicious use of out-sourcing and improved business processes will enable QLDC to do the same, if not greater work, with fewer resources.” 

The draft also damningly claims client service is seen as paramount in only some parts of council. 

“There are other areas, however, where (based on Review Team observations and external stakeholder comments) customer service does not always appear to be seen as important.” 

Council’s front-line customer services team appears to have a positive relationship with its many stakeholders, but the document adds it must not stop there: “A QLDC-wide culture of customer service needs to be fostered amongst all staff at all levels …” 

It’s recommended that this expectation is more explicitly documented in position descriptions of all council staff and council’s key documents. 

Along with a plan for boosting customer service, the report calls on council to break down “internal silos” that have developed as a result of core functions being farmed out to CCOs in separate locations. 

It says the separation has been particularly evident in relation to council and Lakes Environmental – and council’s community services division and Lakes Leisure. 

“The bringing in-house of the activities of Lakes Environmental will help ensure greater alignment of the planning and delivery functions.” 

This’ll be further enhanced by a single boss – a new planning and development general manager – overseeing the planning policy team, and resource and building consent teams. 

The report doesn’t just recommend sweeping cuts – it calls for more resource in some council areas. 

The planning department needs increased technical skills at senior level while extra technical and commercial skill is required within the infrastructure team – including creation of a chief engineer role. Operational managers also need access to people with top financial advisory skills to improve financial performance and cost-effective management plus add value. 

The report summary calls for removal of unnecessary red tape involving resource consents. 

It slags a District Plan review for lacking clarity of purpose and transparency of cost, saying it should be an opportunity to remove some regulatory layers “that impose requirements for resource consents for little apparent gain”. 

“Simplifying the District Plan in this way will ultimately have a major bearing on the number of resource consents processed by QLDC and will significantly reduce the costs imposed on anyone who undertakes development at any level …” 

Council chief executive Adam Feeley, who makes the final decisions on a new structure by April 30 after staff feedback, says he believes the report’s estimate of $2-$3m in savings could be optimistic: “I think it’d be lower than that but it’s certainly a seven-figure number.” 

Feeley says the savings figure has such a huge range because the salaries of new positions created won’t be pinned down until appointments are made. 

“There’ll be savings but the other important thing is it’s also about maintaining services and in many cases lifting services. 

“This whole thing has not been driven by numbers – it’s about thinking about the ratepayers and saying what do they want, not what do we want,” he says. 

“The fact my wife goes to borrow a book at Arrowtown Library and wants to pay rates but they don’t have eftpos there – is that good customer service? 

Feeley says a “service centre” approach as in Roxburgh – where you can borrow a book, pay your dog licence fee and drop off a consent application at one place – is “an obvious thing to do”. 

The review isn’t to cut jobs or slash budgets but improve services, he says, refusing to comment on expected redundancy costs.

MORE DETAILS IN MOUNTAIN SCENE TODAY (Thursday)