Ipswich City Council meeting.
Ipswich City Council meeting.

Cost of councillor support staff to top $1 million

IPSWICH City Council employs 11 councillor support staff, with more positions yet to be filled, at a cost of at least $850,000 a year.

The council confirmed there are seven support staff currently in place for the eight councillors, with two positions to be filled.

There are also four support staff for Mayor Teresa Harding with another position yet to be filled in her office.

Veteran Division 1 councillor Sheila Ireland. There are seven support staff employed by the council for the eight councillors. Two positions are still to be filled.
Veteran Division 1 councillor Sheila Ireland. There are seven support staff employed by the council for the eight councillors. Two positions are still to be filled.

The salary for these roles ranges from $77,540 to $97,660.

Councillors voted unanimously to appoint the extra staff in December after the numbers were culled by interim administrator Greg Chemello.

The council says the number of support officers is less than under the previous administration and “in line with and lower” than similar sized councils in southeast Queensland.

The previous administration had 15 support staff for councillors and seven for the mayor.

Ipswich councillors are paid a base salary of $122,400 and Mayor Teresa Harding $204,000 a year on top of superannuation and a car allowance.

Former interim administrator Steve Greenwood is nearing the end of a 12-month contract as an advisor to the council.

The QT revealed earlier this month that the State Government appointment has cost ratepayers more than $138,000 between April and November last year.

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“All support staff are employees of Ipswich City Council and employed under the same terms and conditions as other council staff,” a council spokesman said.

“Salaries are set in line with the skills and responsibilities of the role and vary dependant on the position.

“After 20 months in administration and previously poor communication channels between residents and councillors from the former council, there has been a significant increase in the number of residents wanting to talk, meet and discuss today’s issues with the new mayor and councillors.

“This means the spending level is substantially lower than it was with the former council and no longer contains any support roles that were hidden and costed elsewhere.”

The spokesman said walk-in customers to the scrapped divisional offices were basically “non-existent” as the offices did not allow residents to conduct business such as paying rates or lodging permit requests.

He said more than 98 per cent of all inquiries to council came in via the main call centre or email while the offices were in place.

Cr Harding said the number of support staff put in place by Mr Chemello were not enough.

“Under that policy the eight councillors were to have six staff to support them working with the public and for myself to have three,” she said.

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“When we started on the first day we had two councillor support officers and it took another nine weeks to have the other four put there.

“I’m not complaining but obviously those first few months we were doing briefings and inductions from 9am-4pm five days a week and then speaking to and seeing residents in the mornings and evenings and lunch times.

“We had an avalanche of requests under the previous administration or the interim administrator.

“I know myself and my office I think I walked in and my secretary said there’s over 500 people and organisations who have made requests to meet with me.

“We wanted to really stick to the policy and we were conscious of the money being spent.

“After working with that for about eight months we weren’t coping and we needed that additional support so we can get back to residents.

“The amount of support and service requests were through the roof.

“Speaking to the CEO, he said this organisation has never seen so many service requests.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.