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Service cuts + SRV = fit for the future

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) last week adopted its blueprint to meet the NSW Government’s demand that it is ‘Fit for the Future’ come 2020/21. Councillors, apart from Deborah Novak and the absent Arthur Lysaught, endorsed CVC’s “revised Fit for the Future reassessment proposal, which incorporates improvement strategies [adopted] as part of Council’s 2017-2021 Delivery Program, 2017/18 Operational Plan and Long Term Financial Plan”, as recommended by staff in the report to last week’s council meeting. The council will now make an application to the IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) for a special rate variation (SRV) of “8% per year (including an estimated rate peg of 2% p.a.) for 3 years commencing 2018/19 to 2020/21 … a cumulative increase of 25.97% to be retained permanently in Council’s rate base”. The application will be subject to another public consultation specifically about the SRV. Other initiatives CVC intends to implement to meet the Fit for Future Operating Performance Ratio benchmark include reducing staff numbers by 27.0 FTE (fulltime equivalent), which realises a saving of $2.25million in 2017/18 among the total savings of $8.598million by 2020/21 – to be made through a combination of service reviews, cost reductions, changes to the delivery of services and increases in charges. The SRV will raise $7.114million in net rate income over the three financial years, 2018/19 to 2020/21 – assuming that the IPART endorses CVC’s SRV application. The combined savings and increased revenue will realise $15.712million over four years, 2017/18 to 2020/21. Predicted service review savings include efficiency gains as a result of building the new South Grafton depot, moving to digital delivery of tourism services, revising the administration of community centres, increased revenue and cost reductions for the Grafton gallery, and reviewing the operation of South Grafton and Glenreagh pools (with a view to sell or long term lease). Service reviews will also be conducted across CVC’s Planning and Community Directorate structure and Natural Resource Management, Executive Support, Corporate Performance and Governance, Asset Management, Civil and Works Administration and Parks and Open Spaces services. Predicted additional revenue will be sourced from: achieving full cost recovery at the Grafton airport; increasing user fees for sports fields, saleyards and Development Management Unit meetings; engaging a fulltime parking, footpath and dining officer; an increase in development applications; sewer and water fund dividends; full cost recovery for the Economic Development Unit’s graphic design artist; and, taking a contribution from domestic waste to pay for damage to roads caused by garbage trucks. Cost reductions include savings made by: reducing budgets for community initiatives, events and festivals and the general manager’s sub services; improving procurement strategies; conducting an internal phone line audit and true-up; and, the purchase of a new mapping solution. The council is also planning to remove the option of paying rates at post offices. This will most likely come into play in September this year. More details about these initiatives can be found in the council meeting section (June 27) of CVC’s website, in the attachment: ‘13.035-17 Attachments C, E-K, M-O’.