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13 September, 2021

Councillor questions decision to make TRC more “top heavy”

The decision by Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) to create a new branch tasked solely with analysing and reviewing the existing front line services has angered a small group of Councillors with one arguing that this decision would make Council more “top heavy” and could further impact the already reduced services in the local community.

Councillor Nancy Sommerfield said the creation of the new branch could have a detrimental effect on the operations of the Council.

Councillors voted to establish the new branch named “Business Transformation and Strategy Branch” within the organisation’s structure.

The  deliberations on the formation of new branch were confidential with minimal information able to be released to the public including the anticipated cost of additional staff and resources.

Cr Nancy Sommerfield, Cr Melissa Taylor and Cr Rebecca Vonhoff voted against the proposal.

Cr Sommerfield came out after the vote, publicly voicing her opposition to the proposal.

She said the new branch would sit directly under the Chief Executive Officer‘s (CEO) office and could bring with it a high level of power and wages.

“The debate was held in confidential session and therefore I am limited to what I can say about the debate other than to say that I spoke passionately against it,” Cr Sommerfield said.

“What I will say is I feel that Council’s decision to make the organisation more top heavy at more cost, to ironically find cost saving efficiencies, has  potential to reduce services on the ground for our residents.”

Cr Sommerfield said she believed the decision to establish a new branch was done without proper consultation with staff members which could potentially be impacted by  the decision.

“I also feel that staff weren’t given a safe avenue to be heard,” she said.

“I believe there was a cheaper alternative way to find effective efficiencies.”

It is still not clear exactly what the duties of new branch will be, with staff expected to take on roles reviewing the current service delivery.

The idea to create a new branch was discussed by Council earlier in the year under the name, “Service Delivery and Sustainability Branch”.

Finance and Business Strategy Committee Chair Cr Geoff McDonald said the branch would focus on continually improving Council’s operations.

“The Branch will work alongside and assist all functional areas of Council to provide the strategic assistance, analysis and support that is designed to improve the way we serve our community,” he said.

“The learnings over the past 18 months have proven that continual business improvement is critical for Council’s ability to respond to the service expectations of our community.”

The establishment of the controversial new branch comes as local residents still wait for Oakey Library services to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The current opening hours, 9.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Friday are still well down on the 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am to noon on Saturday hours.

Goombungee Library also hasn’t returned to opening on Saturday and the Quinalow Library’s opening hours have also been cut back to just Tuesday 9am to 12.30pm and 1pm to 4pm.

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