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Leaked council report: staff concerns about leadership, ratepayers

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EXCLUSIVE: Adelaide City Council staffers believe their leaders lack long-term vision, while the interests of ratepayers are often ignored, a leaked report reveals.

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Results from a confidential “organisational culture survey” published in October last year – obtained by InDaily – paints a telling picture of bureaucracy at the city council, with the majority of workers stating that short-term thinking often compromises the council’s long-term vision.

The survey, conducted by international consultancy firm Denison, also shows the majority of staffers believe the interests of ratepayers often get ignored in the decisions and “lots of things fall between the cracks”.

The survey asked staff to rate statements on a scale of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”, which Denison then quantified to determine the level of support on a percentage scale.

The statement “leaders have a long-term viewpoint” recorded a support rate of just 20 per cent, while “I am proud to work for this organisation” reached only 34 per cent support.

The survey also reveals workers do not believe customer (ratepayer) interests are considered in council decisions, with that statement receiving just 27 per cent support.

Staffers were least likely to support the statement “when people ignore core values they are held accountable” (10 per cent), while the statement “teams are our primary building blocks” achieved the highest support rate at 71 per cent.

Workplace safety was also highly ranked among council staff, despite the statement “safety is the number one priority in everything we do” achieving just 24 per cent support.

Some of the survey results include:

Data: Adelaide City Council / Denison. Graphs: Nicky Capurso / InDaily

InDaily understands councillors were not provided a copy of the survey when it was released earlier this year, with only a summary of the results provided to members who form part of the CEO’s performance review panel.

Those councillors include Jessy Khera, Phil Martin and Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, as well as Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.

City councillors are scheduled to discuss an item called “CEO Performance Review” behind closed doors at tomorrow night’s council meeting.

It comes after two of the council’s top directors – Steve Mathewson and Beth Davidson-Park – voluntarily resigned in April.

Those resignations prompted a leadership restructure at the council, with CEO Mark Goldstone reducing the number of director positions from four to three.

Goldstone told InDaily this morning he was responsible for commissioning the survey 12 months ago, adding it was “normal” for any corporation to run staff surveys on a regular basis.

“I view the results as a ‘point in time’ snapshot of how things are going culturally within the organisation, and an indicator for future focus of cultural development,” he said.

“We have recently made a number of positive changes to further improve the culture of the organisation.”

Goldstone added that the council was “continually making improvements in the workplace based on feedback from staff, with the survey results just one indicator”.

“We will be rolling out a series of further surveys in the future to gauge our progress in this area,” he said.

Abiad said it was “very disappointing” that the survey results had been leaked to InDaily and declined to offer his assessment of the findings.

“This cultural survey is finished, it’s done,” he said.

“It was done a long time ago and the CEO has taken actions from it and he has moved forward, so it’s old news.”

Abiad said he had seen the survey “because the CEO was kind and transparent enough to say ‘look, I’ve conducted a cultural survey across the organisation and most things are good, (but) there are things I’m not happy with’.

“That’s a real go-getting CEO to be able to have the courage to be able to do something like that,” he said.

“I think what the CEO has managed to do in a very short period of time this year is make the organisation far more responsive and ready for the new strategic plan for the new elected members.”

Abiad’s comments were supported by south ward councillor Alexander Hyde, who described the survey as a “snapshot in time about three months before the current council was elected”.

“The lack of vision was one of the reasons I and other new councillors ran,” he said.

“The CEO has been working hard to address the results of the survey over the last year and his changes have seen middle management cut almost in half.

“The staff I talk to now are happy with the changes and have moved on positively under… Goldstone’s leadership and more nimble management structure.”

But north ward councillor Phil Martin pointed criticism at the council’s leadership team for not providing elected members with a full copy of the survey results.

 “I have asked repeatedly for this information and every time it’s been refused,” he said.

“People have to understand that this obsession with secrecy to the extent of hiding documents from elected members is seriously dysfunctional behaviour.

“It is against the spirit of the Local Government Act.”

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