The rates increase is now a fait accompli (“More light shed on IPART rates decision”, CCN 294), but what assurance do we have that these new imposts will achieve the results that we are promised?
It seems that IPART has been disquietingly casual in its decision to entrust Council with the responsibility for spending these extra funds wisely, particularly since, in making its decision, it has drawn particular attention to “shortfalls in Council’s consultation with the community”, has noted “uncertainty around the Council’s long term financial modelling”, has commented that “Council does not have a demonstrated track record of delivering cost savings or efficiencies” and has criticized Council’s “poor history of realizing cost savings, including failing to recognise synergies from amalgamation”.
Despite these caveats which, one would have thought, might have justified a more cautious decision, IPART has approved the significantly increased burden on ratepayers, with the off-hand comment that the Office of Local Government will be responsible for oversight of proper use of the funds.
The Office of Local Government had oversight of the Council for the three years during which it plunged us into the financial morass (as did the NSW Audit Office and the Council auditors), so what faith can we put in the competence of this body?
Would it be an enormous surprise if, at the end of three years, we found ourselves in the same situation as we face now, with another application to IPART for more funds, because Council has not performed up to standard and met its obligations?
The squandering of funds on the unnecessary referendum, on a dubious Warnervale airport study and on a proposed new Gosford waterfront plan, amongst other fripperies, doesn’t inspire confidence that the Council has any sense of the priorities of the community.
When local libraries are being closed or curtailed, despite the fact that they have strong support from locals, to provide funds for activities that are of highly uncertain value, it doesn’t sound as though “shortfalls in Council’s consultation with the community” are going to be remedied any time soon.
Why does the Council have more staff now than the two councils together had before amalgamation; why is work being farmed out to contractors when there is supposedly qualified Council staff available; why is so much of our vital business being conducted in secret when we are the primary stakeholders in the decisions being made?
There are many questions to be pondered when our next rates bills come in.
Email, May 31
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy