22 Jan 2012

Christchurch council to audit communications team

5:40 am on 22 January 2012

Christchurch City Council has announced an independent audit of its communications team after a series of negative stories focusing on its chief executive and the performance of the council.

Mayor Bob Parker and chief executive Tony Marryatt announced the audit on Friday afternoon, which the council says was planned for the middle of 2010 but disrupted by the Canterbury earthquakes.

In a joint statement, the men say they are aware of a lot of negative feedback from the community about Mr Marryatt's role and the council's performance.

They say they have listened to and read the criticism and recognise and agree that what many people are saying is justified and that change is needed.

The audit will cost about $80,000 and involve discussion with up to 120 people within the council and the Christchurch community.

In December last year, it was announced that Tony Marryatt was awarded a $68,000 salary increase. The 14.4% pay rise takes his salary from $470,400 to $538,529, effective from 1 July last year.

Mr Marryatt has been strongly criticised for accepting the pay rise as Christchurch tries to rebuild following a series of strong and destructive earthquakes.

On Tuesday, seven Christchurch City Councillors released a letter to the media sent to Mr Marryatt asking him to urgently reconsider a decision to relocate the council's after-hours call centre to Palmerston North, saying they had not been consulted.

Mayor Bob Parker has defended the chief executive in the past. In December, he said the pay rise reflected Mr Marryatt's performance and aligns his remuneration to the market rate for comparable chief executive roles. He said the scale of Mr Marryatt's role has become more complex since the quakes in September 2010 and February last year.

On plans to move the call centre, the mayor said people need to be able to call the council and get information if there is another significant quake. He said it is likely Canterbury would lose power and the call centre needed to be somewhere it could function.