Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has almost as many staff as NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, prompting questions about staffing levels and employment costs at the Office of the Lord Mayor (OLM).
The OLM this week confirmed Ms Moore is served by 21 full-time equivalent positions, made up of 19 full-time and five part-time staff. The number approaches staffing levels for Mr O’Farrell’s office, which has 24.87 positions, according to the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
With the Lord Mayor overseeing the City of Sydney’s 180,000 people, and the Premier responsible for a state of 7.3 million, questions are being asked as to why Ms Moore has nearly as many staff as Mr O’Farrell.
“I find it extraordinary that the Lord Mayor has a staff of comparable size to the Premier,” said Liberal Councillor Christine Forster. “Surely that cannot be justified and should be the subject of a thorough review.”
Her Liberal colleague Councillor Edward Mandla placed a Question on Notice at Monday’s Council meeting, asking for details on OLM staff numbers and employment costs.
The Lord Mayor confirmed the figure of 21 full-time positions, advising that her total annual employment costs, including seminars and training, were $3.1 million – approximately $148,000 per position.
Mr Mandla claimed Ms Moore’s staffing levels gave her considerable advantage over other councillors.
“It beggars belief that the Lord Mayor’s office has [that many staff] while other councillors, crushed by a barrage of rushed through schemes and ideas, have only one each,” he said.
“I find the City of Sydney Council a David and Goliath battle … We consistently have major items and Lord Mayoral Minutes flopped on our desks with little or no notice, requiring critical votes within hours. Councillors rarely have enough time or research resources to get our head around the issues.”
Living Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas was more conciliatory in her comments but also expressed concern.
“The role of the Lord Mayor is a very important one and it needs to be properly resourced. It also needs to be transparent and if the costs for the [OLM] are completely out of line with the costs of comparable roles, questions need to be asked,” said Ms Vithoulkas.
A comparison with Lord Mayoral offices in major Australian capitals revealed Ms Moore’s staffing levels to be higher than others – although direct comparisons are difficult to make, with LGAs varying in size.
A spokesperson for the City of Melbourne, which has a population of 94,000, said Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor shared six staff in total.
Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi has three full-time staff, however the City of Perth has a population of 19,000 as opposed to Sydney’s 180,000.
Insiders at the City of Brisbane – Australia’s largest LGA, with a population of over one million – said Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk had less staff than Ms Moore but a spokesperson could not confirm the exact number by deadline.
Ms Moore’s office said her staffing levels were entirely appropriate, arguing that she administers the nation’s most important city.
“The Lord Mayor oversees the global city of Australia. The City Council manages an area that contributes around $100 billion to the national economy – a similar amount to the mining industry,” said a spokesperson.
“The Lord Mayor, as the elected head of the City, is ultimately responsible for all of the various functions of Council. These include community consultation, city services such as roadwork and footpath reconstruction, rubbish collection, community services, recreation facilities, parks and playgrounds, environment and climate change, development applications, transport, major and local events, homelessness, business activities and social engagement.”
Thousands of communications were involved in the Lord Mayoral role, said the spokesperson, encompassing correspondence, invitations, meetings, meeting requests, media enquiries, events and ceremonies.
The City’s budget – including funding for the OLM – is approved by Council each year after a period of public exhibition.