Central Coast Council seems content on shifting the blame for its poor financial performance on the unlawful accessing of funds from the Restricted Fund.
In a letter to ratepayers, Council acknowledges that “we have a legal obligation to reimburse the Restricted Funds that were unlawfully accessed to bring forward projects and infrastructure that have undoubtedly benefited the community”.
However, the exact amount of this has not been fully disclosed in the correspondence.
It is noted that this is not the first time that the Council has been caught out in accessing restricted funds.
In the Audit Office of NSW Report on Local Government for the 2018-2019 year therein a note: “Central Coast Council – The Council used Section 7.11 infrastructure contributions to pay Council administration expenses.
“This is a breach of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
“This has subsequently been repaid”.
To gain understanding of the true financial situation, ratepayers need answers to the following: What is the Restricted Fund?
How was the fund accessed, how much was accessed and who was responsible for “unlawfully accessing” these funds?
Are legal proceedings to be instigated against the party or parties who were responsible for this “unlawful” act?
Who is responsible for the governance of the fund, both oversight and audit, at Council and State Government level?
A detailed list of what were the “brought forward projects and infrastructure” should be provided to all ratepayers so that they have a clear understanding as to how this unlawful act has provided what is stated to have “undoubtedly benefited the community”.
Detail of how much the sale of under utilised assets, reduced workforce savings together with reduced workforce and spending on infrastructure, materials and contracts will yield has not been provided.
Details of the preferred proposal of 15 percent one-off rate rise have not been provided, what is the loan term and structure compared to that of 10 percent equating to seven years?
What assurances are to be made to all ratepayers that the proposed on-off rate rise increase is to be directed to repayment of the “unlawfully accessed funds” and not toward General Revenue.
Additionally, there is no mention of what future rate increases, that will no doubt be incurred by ratepayers, and an executive overview of forward estimates would be of assistance.
Answers to the above and provision of further information is needed so that informed decisions can be made prior to completing the survey structured by Council.
Email, Jan 25
Grant Norberry, Ourimbah