No surprises in CEO stress study result

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
Murray shire president David Bolt, Murray-Waroona chief executive officer Dean Unsworth and Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley.
Camera IconMurray shire president David Bolt, Murray-Waroona chief executive officer Dean Unsworth and Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley. Credit: supplied

Local government heads in the South West seem unsurprised to learn work-related stress and psychosocial distress facing local government chief executive officers in WA are nearly three times the national average.

Researchers from the University of WA have found council chiefs across the State are facing unprecedented work-related stress.

Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan said chief executives at regional cities and bigger local government areas had challenging roles.

“They must operate under a large range of legislative and workplace legal requirements, provide leadership across a number of complex areas, think strategically and be accountable to all elected members,” Mr Brennan said. “The larger regional cities are not different to larger metropolitan councils in terms of stress mainly due to the complexity of services offered and internal and external demands.”

Harvey shire president Paul Gillett agreed council dynamics and a lack of resources were a factor in increased stress.

Cr Gillett said he had seen first-hand the impact of this stress.

“I’ve seen a chief executive officer who had a huge amount of pressure applied to him who ended up having to take 12 months off for stress leave,” Cr Gillett said.

“Gone are the days where local councils are just rates, roads and rubbish. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.”

The study’s lead researcher and UWA Business School associate professor Andrew Timming said immediate changes were needed.

“The current way of doing things is not protecting their health and safety,” he said.

Dr Timming said reform was needed to safeguard CEOs’ wellbeing and give ratepayers the benefits of new protections that would increase productivity.

The issue appears to be gaining traction, with the Capel Shire Council going behind closed doors at its November 27 meeting to discuss a proposed new policy to mitigate the risk of psychosocial harm from bullying or other behaviours.

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