Staff spending out of control

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Staff spending out of control

Not happy: Leongatha ratepayer Steve Vagg wants more services and less new jobs.

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has been accused of spending too much money on new staff to the detriment of services.
Those claims have been levelled at council by an angry ratepayer and Cr David Lewis, who last week said ratepayers wanted spending on core services, not extra staff and programs that gave a “warm fuzzy feeling”.
He said some council leaders were taking council in the wrong direction.  
By the end of this financial year, council will have employed 26 extra staff in the past two years, at a cost of $26 million over the next 10 years, Cr Lewis said.
But at the same time, Cr Lewis said council is refusing to fix roads and footpaths requested by ratepayers.
Leongatha ratepayer Steve Vagg said the spending on new staff was “getting out of control”.
“Nearly 41 per cent of our budget is on staff wages,” he said.
The 2011-12 budget allocates $18.94 million for employee costs of the total operating expenditure of $45.58 million – 41 per cent.
Dollar resident Graeme Dyke said his community was getting little value for rates, labelling them the ‘forgotten people’.
But those claims have been rebuked by accountant Cr Jim Fawcett, who said council will finally have adequate staffing levels to provide the services ratepayers expect.
The tensions heightened at council’s budget submissions hearing in Leongatha last Wednesday.
Cr Lewis said council had budgeted to employ 13 extra staff this financial year but as some of those staff won’t be working for the full 12 months, he believed funds were available for capital works, such as building footpaths along the Strzelecki Highway at Mirboo North and improving Dollar Road.
“What people are seeing is huge expenditure in office staff of $26 million over the next 10 years and they are not seeing the basics taken care of, like footpaths and road safety,” he said.
Cr Lewis said council was willing to “wave through” the staff costs “but it was a big problem when trying to fund something for the health and wellbeing of our community.
“There are certain sections of our leadership here that have got their priorities a bit wrong,” he said.
Cr Bob Newton also believed council had “fat on the bone”, with money available to spend on extra capital works.
In a letter to Mr Vagg, council chief executive officer Tim Tamlin said council had many projects and services that demanded extra staff.
“The employment of additional council staff is always controversial, especially for staff in office-based positions. This key support is essential to achieve the sustainable cost-effective delivery of direct services to the community,” Mr Tamlin wrote.
He added the salaries of the extra 12.75 effective full-time positions in the draft budget had been “accommodated in existing budgets without compromising on service delivery”.
“In fact, these positions will assist council enhance its efficiency and deliver better service at the same cost,” Mr Tamlin added.
The Star asked Mr Tamlin on Friday how the positions would be funded from within existing budgets.
He said council would reduce its use of consultancies, and legal and advertising costs, and also by making two casual staff full-time to save paying casual rates.

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Posted by on Jul 19 2011. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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