Events are moving so quickly in relation to the dismissal of Central Coast Council that it is difficult to know where we stand at any particular moment.
The Minister has announced that a letter of dismissal is being prepared, but it has not been issued.
Mr. Crouch announced that there would be no bail-out of the Council, but the Minister immediately announced that a bail-out payment of $6M-odd would be made to Council to cover staff salaries.
The Minister first offered expert assistance to the Council and, then, withdrew the offer, saying that the Council’s own Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee had all the expertise required (although how anyone could conclude that is hard to see, since this Committee was already supposed to be responsible, before we were led into this mess).
The Council is already preparing a rebuttal to the letter that the Minister hasn’t sent and, at the same time, has issued a 100-Day Action Recovery Plan that, it says, it will implement to retrieve the situation.
Anyone can slog through this 22-page document (including explanatory diagrams) but will find little light shed on the specifics of the problem or the solution.
This would lead one to suspect that the councillors have no idea of how the problem arose, and this, in turn, leads one to wonder why we should trust them to identify a solution.
Of course, there is to be an Executive Leadership Team, a Financial Tactical Team and an Auditor, on top of the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee and the Finance Committee that we already have, so there will be no shortage of possibilities for spreading the blame.
In the best approved manner, the Council will “explore”, “develop” and “review” (one assumes in the same way as it has been doing for the past three years), although the main thrust seems to be “seeking immediate liquidity funding” and “raising debt … (supported by a fully costed Restructuring Plan)”.
Basically, this is just kicking the can down the road, and, on past performance, one wouldn’t want to lay money on Council’s preparing a fully costed Restructuring Plan in the next 100 days – at least, not one convincing enough to extract cash from a money-lender.
Whatever happens, the ratepayers are going to be left to bear the debt.
There are a lot of sensible measures set out in the 100-Day Plan, but they are all measures that any properly run Council should have had in place three years ago, and it does raise the question of what the Administrator spent his time doing, while all these measures were left in abeyance at the end of his term.
This does not excuse the Council that should have seen the lack immediately on taking office and moved to remedy it.
Instead, it seems that administration has been lackadaisical, to say the least, which brings up the role of our in-hiding CEO in this farrago of incompetence.
Why is he not leading the effort to extract us from this quagmire or, alternatively, if he is not capable of making a contribution, why does he still hold his post?
Just to add to the mix, the Minister has proclaimed that the Greater Sydney Commission will now take on the task of driving Central Coast growth and bringing jobs and businesses to the region, without revealing how this work will be integrated with the responsibilities of Council.
Would we be unjustified in suspecting that some authority will be transferred to the Commission during the tenure of an Administrator and removed permanently from the Council’s purview?
It is not so long ago that the appointment of our modern Coordinator-General was similarly announced, with promises of how the change would spark a renaissance of the Coast – a renaissance that still seems as far distant as it was in those heady days of yore.
Finally, we have Mr. Crouch waxing lyrical on the merits of Dr. Gellatly (who, incidentally, heads the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee so stunningly absent in action during the uncovering of the fiasco).
Tellingly, Mr. Crouch emphasises Dr. Gellatly’s experience as Administrator of Wollongong City Council: could this be the harbinger of another exciting announcement to come?
At least, we could conceivably be spared the burden of paying for our 15 councillors, at their enhanced rates, so there will be one economy we shall welcome.
How the councillors have the gall to accept this payment is beyond belief.
Email, Oct 23
B. Hyland, Woy Woy.