Marathon six-hour Council meeting to deal with financial crisis

Following a marathon six-hour meeting about its financial crisis on Monday, October 12, Central Coast Council will now focus on its 100-Day Action Plan to financial recovery, seek State Government assistance and establish a Finance Committee.

All matters previously on the agenda were deferred to an extraordinary meeting on Monday, October 19, and instead, the Mayor introduced several Mayoral Minutes dealing with a confidential staff matter, establishment of a finance committee, and Council’s serious financial situation. (See separate articles)

Mayor Lisa Matthews said councillors have requested that the Acting CEO, Jamie Loader, write to the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, seeking urgent assistance with several matters.

“Council has been in daily contact with the Office of Local Government and we expect the arrival in the coming days of a financial expert and human resources adviser, as outlined by the Minister last week,” the Mayor said.

Council is seeking advice on the process for obtaining approval to borrow from restricted funds, including the developer contributions under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the developer servicing plan contributions under the Water Management Act, domestic waste management funds, and unrestricted cash within the water and sewer funds comprising income from user and service charges.

Assistance will also be sought to secure necessary external borrowing up to $100M from NSW Treasury Corporation, or any other emergency funding sources for the purposes of maintaining liquidity in Council, until such time as the actions within the draft 100-Day Recovery Action Plan are implemented.

The Minister will be asked for confirmation on the timing, scope and terms of reference for the previously committed financial and human resources advisers.

Council also resolved at its meeting that should the Minister for Local Government not be able to assist in securing borrowing through the Treasury Corporation, that Council authorise the CEO to present a loan proposal for its consideration at a future Council meeting for the sum of up to $100M.

“A forensic audit of Council’s finances will be undertaken and Council will continue to seek additional support and advice from the Office of Local Government during this period of transition,” the Mayor said.

“Additionally, a Finance Committee will be established to oversee Council’s forensic internal audit and the 100-Day Action Plan to financial recovery.

“This committee will comprise all councillors, the independent financial expert and human resources adviser appointed by the Office of Local Government, and an independent legal adviser,” the Mayor said.

Council’s 100-Day Action Plan will include identifying savings in the Capital Works and Operational Services programs, implementing Capital Works savings of $22.4M which have immediately been identified, and an immediate reduction in non-essential services.

The Plan will remove financial delegations and enhanced financial controls, there will be a review of temporary and casual contractors, and overtime by staff will be highly restricted.

Other actions will include identifying future revenue opportunities, investigation of loans and borrowing options and more aggressive debt repayment programs.

Sue Murray

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