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 Dick Persson. Dick Persson.
04 November 2020 Posted by 

COUNCIL MELTDOWN: Dream team will try to repeat their success

DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
THE successful team of Dick Persson and Rik Hart faced their greatest challenge this week when they set out to find the source of an $89M hole in Central Coast Council’s accounts.
The duo has successfully combined to save and re-establish councils throughout Sydney and NSW, but this will be their greatest challenge.
 
Mr Persson told the assembled media at press conference on Monday that he wanted to get to the bottom of the organisation's financial crisis within the next 30 days.
 
Mr Persson was appointed to the top job last Friday by Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock after the three-year-old amalgamation of Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils ran into serious liquidity problems.
 
He said he was confused about how council found itself in such a serious financial situation but he intended to release a report detailing his findings around the end of the month. 
 
Mr Persson said the crisis was the most serious he had seen.
 
He said there be some pain on the road to financial recovery but said all Council projects currently underway would continue.  
 
Mr Persson confirmed Central Coast Council's CEO Gary Murphy would take leave for up to 12 months  after returning from stress leave, with Mr Hart stepping in to oversee the recovery of the organisation.
 
The Interim Administrator confirmed Mr Hart as Acting Chief Executive Officer at an extraordinary council meeting held in Wyong on Tuesday. 
 
The temporary appointment is until the current CEO, Mr Gary Murphy, returns to the role within 12 months. 
 
“It is with great pleasure that I confirm the appointment of Rik Hart as Acting Chief Executive Officer of Central Coast Council,” Mr Persson said. 
 
“Rik has extensive experience in local government and has come out of retirement to help this organisation on the path to financial recovery. 
 
“We intend to get to the bottom of what has happened here quickly, I will be focusing on Council's financial situation while Rik will be guiding the staff to continue to deliver our essential services.”  
 
Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch met with Mr Persson and said he had a “strong history of rebuilding dysfunctional councils”.
 
“I spoke to Mr Persson and he has set himself an ambitious goal of getting to the bottom of the Council’s financial problems within 30 days.”
 
The general consensus is that the $89m black hole is likely due to financial mismanagement rather than wrongdoing.
 
The “pain” will include job and services cuts, but could also mean another increase in rates which went up 2.6% this year.
 
Cr Greg Best who led the complaints about council’s poor fiscal performance, said outside the council chambers on Monday that a rate rise was probably inevitable.
 
Dick Persson’s impressive record
 
Mr Persson has a history of pushing a change in culture at previous councils he has managed.
 
At Warringah, immediately before the elections, Mr  Persson made the unprecedented step of commenting on political affairs, expressing a desire for individuals involved with the former dismissed council not to stand for election and noted in particular one candidate as having been prominent in the disruptive nature of the previous council and was "the only candidate in Warringah whom I sincerely hope does not get elected."
 
At Port Macquarie Hastings Council he noted Council's "communications management strategies" had resulted in inadequate consultation with the public or appropriate regard to their concerns.
 
Appointed for a four-year term, Mr Persson had the task of "rebuilding the fundamentals of Council and to help re-unite the local community.”
 
At Northern Beaches Council, he was the key to the amalgamation of three traditional councils.
 
In May 2016, with the release of the Local Government Council Amalgamations Proclamation, Mr Persson was announced as the Administrator of the new council, which comprised the former local government areas of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah.
 
As administrator, he directed the implementation of functions of the combined councils into one and noted shortly before the September 2017 election that "I believe the integration of the three previous councils into one Northern Beaches Council is on track to become the benchmark in terms of performance. This is largely due to the skill and hard work of our Council staff and managers."
 
Significantly, Mr Persson remained as administrator until the election of the new Mayor in September 2017.
 
In 2019, another significant moment came when Mr Persson was appointed by the Minister for Planning Rob Stokes to be a member of the Central Sydney Planning Committee, which assesses all development over $50m in the City of Sydney.
 
The Committee comprises the Lord Mayor, two City of Sydney Councillors and four people appointed by the Minister with expertise in relevant fields
 
Sources: Wikipedia, Adam Crouch, Central Coast Council
 


editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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