No. 1 Ash­ley Lind­say

The Daily Examiner - - CLARENCE VALLEY'S POWER 30 -

THERE can be lit­tle doubt the top dog of the 2018 Clarence Val­ley Power 30 has the hard­est job in the re­gion.

When ap­pointed Clarence Val­ley Coun­cil gen­eral man­ager in July 2017, Ash­ley Lind­say was charged with the job of restor­ing the coun­cil’s fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and to win back the pub­lic’s trust in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Nei­ther task was a gimme.

In the pre­vi­ous two years, the coun­cil, un­der dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship teams, had tried and failed to meet the NSW Govern­ment’s Fit for the Fu­ture guide­lines.

Most telling was the In­de­pen­dent Pric­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Tri­bunal’s re­fusal in May 2016 to fully grant the coun­cil’s re­quest for the spe­cial rates vari­a­tion rate rise it needed to fund its Fit for the Fu­ture mea­sures.

IPART panned the coun­cil’s SRV re­quest say­ing it had not jus­ti­fied the need for the rate rise or ad­e­quately con­sulted with ratepay­ers about it.

The fail­ure re­sulted in an­other 10 months of tur­moil, which in­cluded the res­ig­na­tion of Mr Lind­say’s pre­de­ces­sor.

Be­ing thrust into the com­par­a­tive lime­light of the gen­eral man­ager’s po­si­tion has not been easy for a per­son in­stinc­tively hap­pier deal­ing with money mat­ters be­hind the scenes.

Prior to the 2004 coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion he was re­spon­si­ble for the Maclean Shire Coun­cil fi­nances and took over that role at the new Clarence Val­ley Coun­cil.

Mr Lind­say’s back­ground in fi­nance has been valu­able as he and the coun­cil staff charted their way to be­ing Fit for the Fu­ture.

Set a tar­get of im­prov­ing the coun­cil’s bot­tom line by about $15 mil­lion, he was able to to split the dif­fer­ence be­tween rev­enue rais­ing and fund­ing cuts, but both had the po­ten­tial to cre­ate dis­unity.

A key plank of the cost sav­ings was cut­ting the equiv­a­lent of 25 full-time jobs from the coun­cil’s staff, sav­ing around $7.5 mil­lion and the rev­enue rais­ing re­quired a spe­cial rates vari­a­tion rais­ing nearly $8 mil­lion.

For this process to suc­ceed Mr Lind­say recog­nised he had to let his col­leagues and the com­mu­nity know ex­actly what sac­ri­fices they needed to make.

Within the coun­cil he es­tab­lished reg­u­lar staff meet­ings where staff were kept up to date with the process.

In the com­mu­nity Mr Lind­say be­came a reg­u­lar sight at com­mu­nity func­tions, al­ways will­ing to talk openly about what the coun­cil has tried to achieve.

It hasn’t been a fairy­tale.

Clarence Val­ley Coun­cil still cops plenty of flak from ratepay­ers, but there are signs the tide has turned, with many not­ing Mr Lind­say’s open­ness and trans­parency as a key part of the change.

Away from work Mr Lind­say is never hap­pier than be­ing on a footy field.

These days the for­mer North Syd­ney Bear’s field time is as a ref­eree when the Yamba Ea­gles and Clarence Coast Mag­pies ju­nior teams are run­ning around on a Satur­day morn­ing.

His con­tri­bu­tions there have not gone un­no­ticed, just re­cently pick­ing up the Ernie Muller Award for his role in de­vel­op­ing ju­nior rugby league.

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