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Path to ‘Restore and thrive’ sets plan to rebuild trust of community

A back-to-basics turnaround strategy driven by the General Manager in collaboration with all staff and Councillors is a key focus for Council over the next 18 months as the organisation sets a path to restore and thrive.

During the last five years Council has experienced considerable instability that has resulted in a breakdown of fundamental Council operations particularly in its governance and financial management. High turnover of staff in key roles and roles not filled has also meant Council has been vulnerable in many areas. A period of administration and a mandatory Performance Improvement Order directed by the Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock has challenged the organisation to set a back to basics mandate with a focus on significant financial and governance improvement, a more traditional organisation structure and recruitment of a new executive leadership team, culture re-alignment and the re-establishment of core processes.

A significant step in Council’s roadmap to restore and thrive has been to address the poor culture within the organisation. A ‘culture audit’ with a 90 percent staff (and Councillors) participation rate in the audit debrief was conducted by the Dattner Group. In summary the challenges identified by staff and councillors included financial constraints; an organisational structure that doesn’t make sense; issues related to the loss, shortage and turnover of staff; instability at the top including management and councillors; Councillors not managing finances or community expectations; poor community reputation; lack of strategic direction; low morale and job satisfaction and a lack of unity. The audit also highlighted some key strengths of the organisation including good people passionate about serving the community and the potential and current improvements already seeing positive change.

Armidale Regional Council General Manager James Roncon said the results of the culture audit were confronting for some, but not a surprise.

“By addressing the issues of culture head-on, as a united staffing and Councillor group, we can now set a course to turnaround the organisation and build towards a high performing Council delivering for the community we serve,” said Mr Roncon

“Sharing this information with the community as we seek to turnaround the organisation is an important step in owning our mistakes, rebuilding trust and demonstrating our commitment to change.”

A team made up of leaders from all levels of the organisation and referenced as OPARC (Operation: Planet ARC) recently met over three days to develop a draft turnaround strategy and roadmap as part of the back to basics approach that focuses on vision, purpose, values, supporting and unsupportive behaviours, as part of a focused strategy.

“The draft turnaround strategy will now be presented to all staff and councillors in September (COVID restriction permitting) through a World Café, all day event,” said Mr Roncon.

“The World Café is built on the assumption that ... People already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges; that the answers we need are available to us; and that we are Wiser Together than we are alone.”

To facilitate this important all staff and councillor collaboration, COVID restrictions allowing, Council operations are planned to be scaled back and non-essential face-to-face services will be limited on 13 and 14 September 2021. ARCs Online services will still be available and our 24 hour emergency call centre will be operating.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community in advance,” said Mr Roncon.

“These two days of reduced face-to-face services will enable Council to set a course for success that seeks to deliver a long and sustainable future for our region.”

Further Information on Council’s Restore and Thrive’ - Back to Basics – Turnaround Strategy will be available on the website after the World Café process formally adopts them.

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