Pearce faced dissent over tip changes

AT the time of his shock resignation on Wednesday, Newcastle council general manager Phil Pearce was facing dissent from councillors and senior staff for establishing a new service unit.

The council’s organisational chart was quietly altered in October to include a new unit dedicated to the financially troubled Summerhill Waste Management Centre.

Councillors told the Newcastle Herald they did not know until recently about the changes, which under the Local Government Act should have been approved by the elected body.

Mr Pearce confirmed in a statement on Thursday he had OK’d ‘‘reporting structure changes’’ to the Summerhill facility.

‘‘While such reporting structure changes would usually go to the elected council for approval, the general manager approved the changes due to particular circumstances, including that the changes were urgent in nature,’’ the statement said.

Summerhill lost business worth about $1.37million last financial year, mainly due to fee hikes.

In a memo sent to councillors the day before he resigned, Mr Pearce said he believed he had advised them about changes at the dump.

‘‘If I have not informed council, then this is an oversight and I apologise,’’ Mr Pearce wrote.

Some councillors said yesterday they were concerned at learning of the changes to the organisational structure.

Others said the concerns were minor and appeared to  target Mr Pearce.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes said financial losses at the waste management centre were a significant issue for the council.

‘‘Something needed to be done about Summerhill,’’ Cr Nelmes said.

The new council is required to endorse an organisational structure within a year of its election, and Mr Pearce said the Summerhill unit would be put to the council for endorsement at that time.

Mr Pearce announced his resignation on Wednesday afternoon, saying  it was for ‘‘personal’’ reasons.

He will remain at the council until March, and it appears that the city will push ahead with proposals to cut staff and services in the coming months.

‘‘Irrespective of changes in staff across the organisation, the wheels keep on turning,’’ Mr Pearce said.

He did not address suggestions that pushing ahead  could undermine an incoming general manager’s ability to dictate the future direction of the organisation.

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