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Suspended Armidale Councillors could be back before the years out


Armidale Regional Councillors could be reinstated before the years out under strict controls as outlined by Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock this morning.


Minister Hancock said Councillors would have 10 months to prove that they can do the job they were elected to do before facing voters next September.


“After six months under administration we have a clear picture of the state of the council and exactly what needs to be done to strengthen its performance and restore community confidence,” Mrs Hancock said.


Councillors would be reinstated under a proposed Performance Improvement Order (PIO) that outlines a comprehensive roadmap to restore the proper and effective functioning of the council.


The PIO includes the appointment of two temporary positions one to oversee the Council's financials and one to review the governance framework.


Other measures include limiting decision-making powers so Councillors cannot terminate the general manager, change its delegations, and remove the ability to restructure the organisation or amend its councillor/staff interaction policy without the concurrence of the Office of Local Government.


The announcement came as a surprise to the suspended councillors and the Interim Administrator Viv May, who was not available for comment.


Armidale Regional Council will have seven days to make a submission that will be considered in conjunction with the interim administrator's final report which is due to be logged on November 27th.


Suspended Councillor Andrew Murat said he found out through an email from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshal.


"It was just a general media release," Mr Murat said.


Mr Murat said he has no problem with any of the provisions that would be put in place and he would like to get back and get on with the work he is passionate about.


"I relish the opportunity to get back in and finish up a few things I've been very passionate about like the economic development of Armidale and the Airport Business Park," Mr Murat said.


Mr Murat said from his understanding all the Councillor's feel the same however they don't have any constructive dialogue with the current Council Administration.


"We've been sort of shelved," Mr Murat said, "There is minimal contact and we haven't been kept in the loop about a lot of things."


Mr Murat said it could be a challenge to take over in a relatively short turn around given the lack of communication over the last 6 months.


"I think the new General Manager who starts in January will have to work closely with the Councillor's to drive projects forward," said Mr Murat.


Mr Murat said he believes all Councillors are ready to put the past behind them and get on with representing their communities.


"The issues that were there before seem to have been identified and addressed by the Administrator and Minister," Mr Murat said, "They wouldn't be putting us back if they didn't believe it was resolved."


The Minister must consider any submission before making a final determination on whether to issue the PIO. It will be considered in conjunction with the interim administrator’s final report which is due to be lodged on November 27.