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The new ‘unified’ CVC on repairing its financial woes

Having seemingly forged a unified front (apart from councillors Novak and Clancy), councillors have chosen “some spending cuts and some rates increases” to address Clarence Valley Council’s fragile financial state.
Cr Andrew Baker, the mover of the motion, seconded by Cr Arthur Lysaught, read these words from a prepared speech at last week’s council meeting.
“This motion before us is the start of getting it right,” he said.
“…A projected $15million deficit meant either very large spending cuts or very large rate rises.
“…We’ve faced up to the central issue: overspending in relation to our income or under-collecting relative to our spending.
“So in November last year a majority of councillors rejected a proposed SRV [special rate variation] and some future reductions.
“…The OLG (Office of Local Government) workshop was very powerful in a number of ways.
“In the end we were in no doubt what our governance responsibilities are.
“… This term of council, in just six months, has taken the financial sustainability question to heart.
“It will take all the decisions necessary to make council Fit for the Future.
“The motion before us is an essential part of sustainability.”
Cr Greg Clancy was opposed and said: “I would dearly like to vote for this motion, [but] there is a sticking point that prevents me doing that.”
He said that there was “one aspect” he could not support; however, he said the OLG had left the council no option.
Cr Richie Williamson said: “If this council is to make serious inroads into an issue that has not been of our making, but we are charged with fixing, we need to all collectively move forward.
“…Our time is up; the OLG didn’t beat around the bush.”
Cr Peter Ellem said he believed that “it is the shared responsibility of the nine duly-elected councillors, and not that of a financial controller or administrator, to adopt a draft package of job cuts, to be made in full consultation with the United Services Union, efficiency savings, and, regrettably, rate increases, to be put up for community consultation”.
Cr Debrah Novak said she couldn’t support the motion because she was opposed to a SRV during last year’s election; however, her stance appeared to contradict comments she made on April 8.
“All the councillors are unanimous in where we are going and what must be done to achieved a balance budget,” she wrote on the Clarence Valley Rate Payers, Residents & Business Owners Facebook forum, following the OLG workshop.
Cr Arthur Lysaught said that it was “one of the rare occasions” he found himself “in total agreement with councillors Baker, Williamson and Ellem”.
He said that cost shifting, from the state government to local government, and legislative changes were the root of the council’s financial issues.
Cr Toms said she would “take the flack” as a result of her new support for a SRV, and expressed similar views to those who spoke before her.
Cr Kingsley also commended Cr Baker’s motion, saying “it takes a lot to swallow pride and come back from what you put forward back in November”.
He said it wasn’t until about half way through his last term that he realised “that you can’t make the financial decisions unless you have the information before you; previously, we didn’t have that information.”
The mayor, Jim Simmons, noted that there had been an “accounting deficit each year since amalgamation” and was critical of the “ridiculously low rate peg” percentages (1.8 per cent this year and 1.5 per cent next year) that have been handed down by the NSW Government.

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