88 Sutherland Shire Council jobs to go

THE biggest structural shake-up in Sutherland Shire Council's history will see up to 88 jobs go over the next three years, departments cut from six to four and the sale of about $15 million in assets.

This follows the tabling this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) of the first major independent strategic review of the council's operations since 1988.

Sutherland Shire mayor Kent Johns said job reductions would be achieved only through voluntary redundancies and natural attrition.

"There will be no forced redundancies," he said. "I want council staff to be assured of that."

But he warned that structural change was necessary.

"This is our last chance to get it right," he said.

But it could have been worse. The most radical of four scenarios suggested by PwC called for 300 job cuts from a total workforce of about 1200, the sale of Sutherland Entertainment Centre, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre and Sutherland Shire Hub for Economic Development (SSHED), the closure of two libraries, the introduction of a new 4 per cent infrastructure levy and paid parking, as well as the sale of "pocket" parks.

All these options were rejected by the council.

But immediate change was needed, Cr Johns said.

"Unless we act now we will move from our current position of a $1 million cash surplus this financial year to a net operating deficit of $4 million to $8 million a year by 2019, alarmingly growing to $10 million by 2022," he said.

"Our current position is unsustainable and the need to take action is urgent. Any delay in addressing our situation risks us having to make extreme cuts to jobs and services in the future."

Cr Johns said there was an opportunity to increase the performance of the council by consolidation of duplicated services, a reduction in the number of directors and managers and the implementation of "full cost allocation" to all services.

There will be a reduction of departments from six to three and a new arm of the council developed to ensure services such as gyms and cafes are "market tested" to compete with the private sector.

The strategic review was debated by councillors in closed session on Tuesday night.

But Labor and Shire Watch Independents councillors were critical that they saw the document only two hours before debating its contents.

They unsuccessfully put an amendment for more time to digest the report and make an informed decision.

"We needed more than two hours to digest one of the most important documents the council has had to consider in 25 years," Shire Watch Independents councillor Peter Towell said.

"We are talking about financial plans for the next 25 years, so why do we need to make a decision this week?

"There are major questions and concerns over which assets will be sold and which services will be privatised.

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