Get the facts: Media reports on Council staff costs inaccurate

A story appeared this week comparing the cost of Council employees across South East Queensland and claimed that Redland City Council staff were the second most expensive in South East Queensland. The story, which originally ran on the Brisbane Times website and was then run on Channel Nine and picked up by the Redland City Bulletin, contained a number of inaccuracies and assumptions that mean the figures reported are unreliable.

The journalist calculated a cost per employee by dividing Council’s budgeted employee cash expenditure by the number Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff reported in our annual report. This calculation is not accurate for two reasons; firstly the two numbers don’t match up in that the budgeted cash expenditure includes agency staff while the total FTE count reported does not and secondly the two numbers are from different financial years.

Also it is impossible to know if the comparison between Redland City Council and other SEQ Councils is accurate because there is no context to ensure Councils are using a consistent baseline to compare. This includes whether the staff numbers include contract or casual staff or if the employee costs are salaries only or include costs such as superannuation, long service leave etc. This makes it impossible to tell if the comparison between Councils is comparing “apples with apples”.

The stories also didn’t take into account the fact that some SEQ Councils operate their own water service while others don’t. Obviously those Councils that operate their own water business, such as the Redlands, will have a higher FTE because they provide a service the other Councils don’t, making the total FTE comparison inaccurate. This may also apply for other services contracted out by Councils, affecting their FTE count.

Redland City Council’s full time equivalent staff numbers have reduced almost 10% over the last six years, while maintaining our core service offering. This has been achieved through a back to basics commitment that focuses on key Council services and included an internal restructure that reduced the number of executive level roles.