Council leave inquiry sought

Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt
Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt

The Christchurch City Council is being pressured to conduct a full inquiry into chief executive Tony Marryatt's decision to grant staff extra paid leave.

The board of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of thousands of businesses, has written to Mayor Bob Parker and city councillors asking for a "full and detailed" inquiry into Marryatt's "unilateral action" in giving almost 2000 part-time and fulltime council employees 11 days of extra leave without approval from elected members.

Parker has spoken to The Press for the first time on the issue and is defending Marryatt's move.

In the letter, the board says many in the business community are questioning the legitimacy of that decision.

"A change in working conditions of all staff of this magnitude would be regarded as a significant policy shift in the private sector, requiring governance approval," it says.

"We seriously question whether in this instance delegated authorities have been breached."

It says there is concern that promises made this year to improve communications within the council and to engage with the community on significant issues appear to have been broken.

"It seems that nothing has changed in terms of communication, with councillors only learning of the significant shift in employment policy through the media," it says.

"The requirement of community engagement on significant issues also seems to have been overlooked.

"The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce wants to see these issues addressed immediately. We believe a full and detailed inquiry must be conducted, the real costs identified and any breaches of delegated authority identified and addressed.

"‘We do not expect one of the largest employers in Christchurch, who remunerates using public funds, to act in this manner.

''It works against the interest of the business community, most of whom have toiled assiduously in the face of significant challenge to ensure that our city and our region will continue to thrive and prosper.

''We can assure you most are angered by this issue and want to see it addressed quickly and effectively."

Parker saw no need for an inquiry and backed Marryatt's actions.

He said Marryatt had not breached his delegated authority, describing it as a management, not a governance, decision.

"It is another example of a big pile of hot air and smoke around something ... that is Mr Marryatt's decision to take," he said.

"I think it is a wise, sensible decision that doesn't cost us cash and will actually increase productivity beyond any time staff take off."

Councillors who went to San Francisco on a post-disaster fact-finding mission returned stressing the importance of the council looking after and retaining its staff, he said. Marryatt and his executive team had taken their advice, which led to the decision to grant the extra leave.

"It will help with retention and recruitment," Parker said. "I think it is entirely sensible."

Council corporate and financial committee chairwoman Cr Helen Broughton believed the decision should be the subject of further scrutiny.

"At the very least there's going to have to be a very serious conversation between the council and the chief executive," shje said.

The Press