THE RETURN of Armidale Regional Council (ARC) has been welcomed by the man sent to fix its mistakes, interim-administrator Viv May.
In his first address to the council in June, Mr May said the community deserved better and committed to restore the democratically elected body as soon as possible.
The council is being rebuilt and the financial management weaknesses have been identified and are being addressed, he said.
"It is pleasing the minister [Shelley Hancock] has recognised the hard work of many people during the past six months, which has given a clear picture of the state of the council and what needs to be done to restore the confidence and trust of the community," he said.
"The proposed Performance Improvement Order and the very strong independent oversight on councillors clears the way for the return of councillors and limits opportunities for further mismanagement.
"I welcome the order. It is a comprehensive approach to the management of what was a toxic environment and will allow the return of the Council and democratic leadership to the people of this region."
In the last six months Mr May has worked on transparent decision-making within the council and expects it to continue when the councillors return to duty on December 12.
Councillors Dorothy Robinson, Debra O'Brien and Margaret O'Connor welcomed the news they would be back on deck in just more than two weeks.
On behalf of all three, Ms Robinson said they looked forward to working with councillors Jon Galletly, Andrew Murat, Peter Bailey and Ian Tiley.
"We are pleased to be reinstated and aim to build a positive vision for our region," she said.
"We have always supported openness and transparency and want all the community's voices to be heard.
A SUSPENDED Armidale Regional Council (ARC) will be back on deck from December 12 with strict conditions from Office of Local Government (OLG) Minister Shelley Hancock to keep it on track.
The infighting, tumultuous public court battle and subsequent suspension saw three councillors and former mayor Simon Murray hand in their resignations, so it will be up to the surviving seven to take the lead.
Strict controls and expert supervision are part of the proposed Performance Improvement Order (PIO) issued by Ms Hancock.
"After six months under administration we have a clear picture of the state of the council and exactly what needs to be done to strengthen its performance and restore community confidence," she said.
"The proposed PIO provides a comprehensive roadmap to restore the proper and effective functioning of the council with strict controls and requirements and expert supervision to make sure the job gets done.
"Councillors would have 10 months to prove to the community that they can do the job they were elected to do before they face voters at the September council election."
The councillors have seven days to make submissions on the order which will be considered alongside interim-administrator Viv May's final report that's due on November 27.
There's a long road ahead to regain the trust of the community, councillor Peter Bailey said.
"I'm glad the community will gain local representation again, I am somewhat skeptical because we haven't been together for six months and we have to show the faith of the minister that we are capable of governing the city," he said.
"We have a lot to do, we need to update the Code of Conduct, we need a budget update.
"We need to learn to meet collectively rather than in groups and I hope that's the outcome.
"We have to prove that we have learned from the suspension and we can move forward."
The proposed order details significant restrictions on the council's functions and decision-making powers.
The councillors cannot terminate general manager James Roncon's employment, its delegations, restructure the organisation or change any of the councillor and staff interaction policies without the approval of the OLG.
A financial controller will be hired to improve accounting, monitoring, reporting and performance and a temporary advisor put in place to oversee the conduct of the council at meetings, briefs and workshops.
The new rules mean the general manager has to be provided with enough money to maintain governance standards, deliver the operational plan, maintain infrastructure and improve financial ratios.
The code of meeting practice will be reviewed and councillor briefings will need to be open to the public where appropriate after Mr May shared concerns workshops had "unlawfully" been used as "de-facto meetings".
It's understood a new mayor and deputy mayor will need to be elected.
The council was suspended for three months and that was extended after Mr May asked for more time to address financial, and organisational issues and improve it's reputation with the public.
The Leader revealed that before the council's suspension, requests for formal investigation into the dissension were made to the OLG.
Ms Hancock will consider any submissions to the PIO before a final decision is made on whether it is issued.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall welcomed the decision with some trepidation on Monday.
He said the returning councillors would be put on notice and closely scrutinised by the community.
"The councillors have been given a second chance and will have nine months to prove to the community they've learned lessons from the past and will now work together to rebuild the organisation and the community's trust and confidence in the council," he said.
"The administrator has done a good job at identifying the problems and setting the course for recovery and the returning councillors must now be united and provide strong and effective leadership for the whole region and never allow the problems of the past to emerge again - we cannot afford it."
The checks and balances will be in place until the next council elections in September 2021.