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Council split on GM’s new contract, hands her 5% pay rise

Feb 5, 2024

Hawkesbury City Council general manager Elizabeth Richardson has only kept her $372,868 a year job, with a narrow 7-5 vote in favour of a new three year contract..

Her contract renewal was discussed by Councillors at both last week’s Jan 31 meeting and a briefing a week earlier, with many councillors expressing misgivings over her performance including some who eventually voted in favour of retaining her.

Lining up behind the GM was the Liberal-Labor bloc that controls council with Councillors McMahon, Connolly, Veigel and Reardon ( Lib) as well as Crs. Calvert and Kotlash as well as Cr Les Sheather who sides with the bloc. Crs. Lyons-Buckett, Wheeler, Zamprogno, Djuric and Dogramaci voted against retaining Richardson.

HCC General Manager Elizabeth Richardson has only narrowly kept her job.

The contract renewal on June 1, comes only a few months after she was handed a pay rise of 5% that will see her salary jump to $372,868 a year, backdated to June 2023.

The pay increase was approved unanimously by all HCC’s 12 councillors despite a cost of living crisis and ahead of an expected re-signing of Richardson’s contract this year. She was employed in April 2021 following the controversial sacking of previous GM Peter Conroy in November 2020 with just three days notice.

While the Richardson – lead HCC met some performance measures according to the annual report, it had a number of notable and expensive stumbles this year. This included the unprecedented $32.5 million loan for the mismanagement of Windsor sewer Rising Main C repair, that resulted in a 14% hike in sewerage rates in the LGA this financial year. Other issues mismanaged by council included the Lower Portland Ferry contract and four years on, the collapsed riverbank at Cornwallis has not yet been resolved.

Richardson’s employment agreement including any hurdles for pay increases is confidential, an HCC spokesman said. Other council staff received a 4.5% increase, meaning that the GM received a larger rise in both percentage and total amount than any of her staff.

Richardson began her initial three-year term on June 1, 2021. Her previous role was as the Chief Operating Officer, Director of Development and Recreation, at Inner West Council which she had held since 2019. HCC employs 367 people.

Richardson’s salary is in the mid range of NSW councils. A 2021 report found that the total average remuneration received by a NSW council general manager in 2019-2020 was $328,287 per annum. Hawkesbury ranks 39 out of 128 councils in terms of populations and 70 in terms of physical area.

“General manager remuneration is highly influenced by population levels and the challenges of managing larger councils such as greater operational complexity, higher staffing levels and higher revenue/expenditure bases, “ the Office of Local Government report found.

There were four senior staff positions employed under contract by Council between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023. These positions were General Manager, Director Infrastructure Services, Director City Planning, and Director Corporate Services, according to the HCC Annual Report for 2020-2023.

“All senior staff follow the standard contract formats issued by the Office of Local Government (OLG) and are subject to performance agreements. Between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023, the General Manager’s Total Remuneration Package (TRP) was $355,113 and the TRP’s of the three Directors referred to above, totalled $769,915,” the report stated.

During the 2023 financial year, the council spent $24 million on infrastructure services with major contracts going to P&M Galea ($6m), Bernipave Pty ltd ($5.5m), Azbuild Pty Ltd ($2.1m), Slaney Excavations ($1.6m), L J Follington Construction P/L ($1m) and Kerway Asphalting ($0.7m).

It also spent $3.2 million on external professional services including Civic Risk Mutual Insurance Contributions $2,165,460 Marsdens Law Group Legal Services $210,924, Pikes & Verekers Lawyers Legal Services $853,900, Complete Staff Solutions Employment Agency $236,133 Randstad Employment Agency $771,719.

HCC spent $20 million on waste water management, $3.8 million on parks and recreation, $11.3 million on waste services, $6.1 million on project delivery, $6 million on facility operations, $9.8 million on general utilities, fuel, IT and civil works and $30 million on infrastructure recovery.

HCC spent almost $1 million on dozens of legal cases mainly regarding Development and Building applications and misuse of land.

 

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