Irrespective of who or what Party the Central Coast community voted for in September 2017 to comprise the newly amalgamated Council, we are surely entitled to know the facts leading to the suspension of that Council in October 2020 and the subsequent reports of serious debt and clarification as to how the debt was accumulated.
This is especially because we are now being conditioned/coerced to accept an increase in our Council rates as well as giving the State Government appointed Administrator permission to sell off our assets.
To date, no cost benefit analysis has been published on any current Council owned premises or assets that are to be sold.
In 2016, the then Administrator (Reynolds) took the option of agreeing to changes to Council’s accounting policy regarding the reporting of Restricted Funds and, to quote the current Acting CEO Rik Hart, “you needed to know where to look” to ascertain the true amounts.
This week we are now told that Council’s Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee has discovered that staff have not complied with policy requirements regarding Council’s temporary labour hire.
That is contrary to assurances given by the same staff to our elected representatives in March 2020 that they were complying with these requirements of the NSW Audit Office.
How many other occasions were our elected representatives deceived in this way?
To add to this saga, we now know that despite inadequate finalisation of both former Wyong and Gosford councils’ respective audits at the time of amalgamation; conflicting information as to the actual cost of amalgamation by former senior staff, we were never going to be afforded equity by the State Government in the distribution of the Stronger Communities Fund.
This was the government fund established to assist NSW Councils with the costs of amalgamation.
Coincidentally, this week and as a consequence of that same Fund’s documents being shredded in the Premier’s office prior to the State election in 2019, this matter has now been referred to ICAC.
One aspect that may give our Central Coast community some comfort is, we are not alone!
In fact, we are but one of 10 councils in NSW who are in a financial predicament primarily resulting from forced amalgamations without adequate cost/benefit analysis including realistic estimates of time for consolidation and its associated costs.
Of course, the issue has been further exacerbated by the State Government’s failure to adequately fund this forced amalgamation policy, as they originally promised.
Email, Jan 23
Anne Sullivan-Craig, Ourimbah