Changing shape of Chch council in wake of scathing Ombudsman report

The city council says good progress is being made in response to Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier's...
The city council says good progress is being made in response to Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier's scathing assessment which accused council bosses of manipulating reports. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the Christchurch City Council appears to be making good progress in response to his heavily critical assessment of it last year.

In his investigation into how the city council responds to requests for official information he identified “serious concerns” around the city council’s commitment to openness and transparency. 

Within his findings from his investigation from October 2018 to July 2019 he alleged city council bosses were “manipulating” reports before they were released to elected members and the public.

In response to Mr Boshier’s concerns, the city council formulated an improvement plan consisting of 90 different actions to address his recommendations.

An update from the city council on the improvement plan set received by city councillors on Wednesday states: “Good progress is being made on the implementation of the improvement plan.

“Of the 90 identified actions for the council, 28 have been completed, 44 have been initiated and are ongoing, 17 have yet to be started and one has been delayed,” it reads.

Peter Boshier. Photo: Supplied
Peter Boshier. Photo: Supplied
Mr Boshier said he plans to check in with the city council in late February.

“The council appears to be making good progress on the recommendation and that is encouraging, but we will know more after we check in late next month,” he said.

During Mr Boshier’s investigation, he said city council staff raised concerns with him about the behaviour of “some members of the then executive leadership team.”

He said he had received no further concerns from staff since the release of the report.

In his report, he said former chief executive Karleen Edwards failed to take “appropriate and adequate action” after staff raised concerns that some members of the executive leadership team were withholding information.

Ms Edwards chose not to reapply for the chief executive role after her five-year contract ended in June.

Dawn Baxendale. Photo: Supplied
Dawn Baxendale. Photo: Supplied
Current chief executive Dawn Baxendale announced in July she was quitting as Birmingham City Council chief executive to take on the role.

Mr Boshier recommended Mrs Baxendale review the practice of the executive leadership team’s involvement in controlling the flow of information to elected members and the public, which has since been completed.

Mrs Baxendale said herself and the executive leadership team are committed to implementing the improvement plan.

“Solid progress is being made with an emphasis on not just completing the actions but embedding the cultural change in the council," she said. 

"Our expectations are to drive continuous improvement so it becomes part of our natural behaviour."

Mrs Baxendale said she expects the remaining action points to be completed by the end of May.

Other recommendations from Mr Boshier included allowing a clear process for staff to raise concerns “without fear of reprisal” and ensuring the “mayor’s adviser” is not a participant in the weekly meeting where LGOIMA requests are discussed. Both recommendations have been acted on.