Budget for 2014-15.
This extraordinary Council Meeting was called because two (Liberal) Councillors will be absent on the regularly scheduled Council Meeting for the 25th June 2014. That would have led to unexpected consequences for the Liberal dominated Council and its proposed 2014-15 Budget. Several controversial spending proposals would have been amended and may not have been able to be re-visited via a rescission motion due to time constraints.
During my 2008-12 term of Council, several Councillors were overseas at the time of Council Meetings, with no changes to planned meetings dates and times. But this Council manipulates meetings to suit majority Councillor attendance, irrespective of cost and inconvenience to the public, Council staff and other Councillors.
I previously opposed the public exhibition of the budget as presented to Council. My main objections refer to insufficient details in several areas and the lack of comparison of this budget to the previous year. Ratepayers cannot readily identify changes in infrastructure spending compared to last year.
One example is the allocation of $6.2M for “Civic Leadership”. What does that entail? The budget does not show that the Mayor’s Unit had increased its personnel from one part-time staff, prior to the September 2012 elections, to three full-time staff after the election. That alone is estimated to cost an extra $2M over four years.
Since September 2012, the Mayor has been provided with a full-time Personal Assistant and a “Policy Adviser”, the latter re-termed as a “Senior Adviser” possibly due to my concerns that the Mayor does not make policy in isolation. Link to information here: http://www.liverpool.nsw.gov.au/council/council-meetings It is the Council composed of Councillors that make policy, no-one else, so why appoint a Policy Adviser to the Mayor?
In my opinion, any Policy Adviser/Senior Adviser should be available to ALL Councillors, not just the Mayor.
Another concern is the extraordinary sums allocated to the “revitalization” of the CBD. A loan of $10M will be used for that purpose. The Town Improvement Fund (TIF) will be used to pay back the special loan estimated to be $13M over the next 10 years. It means the next 3 terms of Council are committed to using the special TIF funds to pay back this loan, that is undemocratic.
The budget, prepared by Council staff, is a well presented document for anyone that wants a simple overview of how Council proposes to spend its rates. However, as pointed out above, comparison to the last year’s spending is not shown.
It could be argued that the glossy presentations relating to the two major projects; the Carnes Hill Community Facility and the Kurrajong Road extension, which connects the Hume Highway and Cowpasture Roads, were actually paid for by Developer Contributions (S94), not rates. But that would tend to detract from the claim of record spending on infrastructure projects and lessen the reason for the rate increase and retaining the Special Rate Variation (SRV).
Since the SRV will be used exclusively for roads and maintenance, it frees up funds to be used for the Mayors projects such as Night Markets, Festivals and the revitalization of the CBD, all are projects that most rural and outer suburb residents rarely use.
Other issues are;
- Over $100k spent on planning for a Sports Stadium in Liverpool that will cost ratepayers several million $ to maintain, adding to the ever increasing and already high maintenance and infrastructure backlog of more than $200M.
- No identifiable funding for enforcement staff to deal with illegal dumping, particularly in rural areas.
- No identifiable funding for growth in Planning and Engineering staff, especially as we are a recognised growth area.
Clr Peter Harle