Councillors told surplus not possible – MacGregor

Suspended councillor Kyle MacGregor

Suspended Councillor Kyle MacGregor wanted Central Coast Council to diversify its income and revenue.

Speaking at the Public Inquiry on October 7, he said he found it hard to get support to make that happen but the constant thing was that Council had more money going out than coming in.

“What needs to be done is things that are going to make the Council profitable and for the Council to be able to actually diversify its income and revenue,” he said.

“That’s something that I was very keen to do when I was on Council.

“I found it very hard to get support for that, and it is about doing it in a targeted way.

“A lot of Council’s operations are unable to make money.

You don’t make money out of your drainage system, but you can make money out of other areas and aspects of Council.”

He said that going on the size of the ratepayer base, Central Coast Council had relatively less debt per property at $1,658.71, compared to MidCoast Council and Shoalhaven Council which both had by comparison more than double the debt of Central Coast Council on a per property basis at June 30, 2019.

Cr MacGregor said he included a table in his submission that showed borrowings of Central Coast Council as of June 30, 2019 were $233M, MidCoast Council, $222.5M, Shoalhaven  $222.5M and the Coast was a much larger council than both of them.

“We were frequently told that we were the largest Council in the country on a financial and budget basis, and at no time did I believe that the budgets that were put forward by staff for us to adopt did not reflect our ability to perform on an appropriate economic level,” he said.

He said prior to the adoption of the 18/19 18 operational plan Councillors were briefed by staff “who explicitly informed us that it would be impossible for the Council to run operational surpluses until the amalgamation was complete and efficiency dividends were realized”.

He was told very early on that the Councillors’ role was to focus on the strategic direction of the Council.

He said he had requests for information from a community group at Tuggerawong about the flooding in 2020 and he received a five-word answer from staff saying basically “you don’t need to know that”.

Another time he asked for details on the directorate’s adherence to their budgets and was told it would take up to six months to respond.

He said he was concerned that some reports did not comply with the relevant Acts or regulations.

He gave an example where the Local Government Act says that Council officers have to “establish and maintain a system of budgetary control that will enable the Council’s actual income and expenditure to be monitored each month” and to be compared with the estimate of the Council’s income and expenditure.

If any instance arose where the actual income or expenditure of the Council was materially different from its estimated income or expenditure, it had to be reported to the next Council meeting.

He said the Councillors didn’t get monthly information about the overall performance of the Council but had to rely on quarterly reports.

Merilyn Vale