The mayor of Invercargill is being viewed as an unavoidable and inconvenient distraction even though a six-month progress review found that the council is working better together.
An independent review follows that found a leadership void in Invercargill City Council, with Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt struggling to get his job done.
On Monday, the council’s Risk and Assurance Committee received the six-month progress report behind closed doors during an emergency meeting.
Its author, Richard Thomson, said the council should be pleased with the progress made.
“This is advice that is still a work in progress, but I should be pleased (both governance and management) by the progress that has been made. I commend them for their willingness to accept strong criticism and respond so positively.” added. Thomson said.
“No one is suggesting that he is perfect, but I think he is now meeting the expectations that his taxpayers should expect of him.”
While councilors and staff were in a much better space than six months ago, tensions with the mayor continued, he said.
“There continue to be significant difficulties in managing a political process in which his colleagues believe that the mayor not only cannot perform his expected functions, but that he continues to actively fuel discontent through his statements in the public media.
“However, the significant difference from six months ago is that the mayor is now seen more as an unavoidable and inconvenient distraction and the rest of them just have to go ahead and make things work.”
Thomson acknowledged that recent media stories and public statements that had been issued since his review ended showed that there was still cause for concern and work to be done.
“In most respects, they have made significant progress in a very short period of time. Work remains to be done to consolidate this and allow for the phasing out of external appointments, more specifically around the tension that now exists openly between the mayor and his deputy (and acknowledging that this reflects a broader frustration of councilors in general). “
While Sir Tim was highly respected for his contribution to the city, more than 75 percent of councilors and 84 percent of staff surveyed did not trust the mayor to be aware of key council issues, Thomson said.
But he didn’t want that to cloud the progress that had been made.
“Most elected representatives and staff believe that ICC councilors have made remarkable progress in the past six months towards respectful industrial relations, which uphold the code of conduct and maintain public trust in the council.”
Executive Director Clare Hadley said she was pleased that the council got independent confirmation of the progress it had made.
“It’s clear around the board table and among staff that the commitment we’ve all made over the past six months has made a real difference in the way we work. We put in place a fairly rigorous improvement program and I’m proud of the efforts. done to meet the plan and get results, “Hadley said.
“Our hard work has paid off, but we know we need to stay focused on our improvement plan. I think the board is in a good place now, focused on delivering results for the people of Invercargill.”
The review report was originally intended to be discussed by the councilman last month, but was delayed during the shutdown.
The independent chairman of the Risk and Assurance Committee, Bruce Robertson, said clear progress was obvious around the board table.
“Council staff and elected members are to be commended for their work in addressing the issues raised in the original Thomson Report. It is not always easy for someone to point out what is not doing so well for them, but I have seen the council address the head on problems and make very good progress, “he said.
The council would meet during an emergency meeting on Tuesday to officially consider the review and along with staff recommendations on how the governance review work program would continue.
The review report was scheduled to be received by the council last month, but was delayed due to the shutdown.