Recollections as an LCIT Councillor 2008-2021

Councillor Peter Harle JP

Peter Harle JP
Councillor since 2008

My views of Liverpool City Council from 2008 to 2022. Councillors Peter Harle JP

I was elected as a Councillor representing the Liverpool Community Independents Team (LCIT) in September 2008, immediately following the Administrators term from 2004 to 2008.
The election resulted in three Liberal and three Independent Councillors, including Nadia Napoletano and Gary Lucas, having the majority over five Labor Councillors including the Mayor.
That term of Council with Mayor Waller formulated and approved the construction of the Carnes Hill Community Centre project and the much needed Kurrajong Road extension to Cowpasture Road. Both projects were planned and commenced in the 2008-12 term of Council and completed during the following term. Mayor Mannoun inherited the ribbon cutting honours for both projects.

The  2016-2021 five-year term of Council was, in my humble opinion, the most stable during my 14 years as a Councillor, despite the financial impact of Covid 19.

During 2016-2021 more than $400m was spent on Community projects and facilities including: Cirrillo Reserve, Stanton Reserve, Apex Park, Phillips Park, Miller Park, McGirr Park, Schoeffel Park, Croatia Park, St Andrews Park, Dunumbral Park, Casula Parklands, refurbishment of the Michael Wendon Aquatic Centre and many smaller “pocket” park upgrades, a record not achieved in any previous term of Council.

The 2016-21 five year term of Council managed its finances extremely well despite inheriting a deficit of $2.1 million from the previous Mannoun-Liberal dominated term of Council in addition to the enormous impact of the Covid 19 epidemic.
Council supported small businesses and ensured Council staff were not impacted.
Council assisted businesses and residents that suffered due to Covid 19 by allowing rate payments to be deferred over an extended period. Overall those actions cost Council an additional $10M.
Council also had to meet unexpected critical Asbestos remediation works adding a further $20M burden on the budget.

The overall budget outcomes of a deficit of $11m were primarily the result of good management and the fact that no one political party had a majority in the decision-making process of Council.
The make-up of Council was; a Labor Mayor (Wendy Waller), 2 Independents (LCIT) 4 Labor and 4 Liberal Councillors. All worked together to achieve the best outcomes for the community.

Fact is; Liverpool City Council managed its 2021 $300 Million budget better than most of its neighbours, as shown in the comparisons below and on Councils website.

http://liverpool.infocouncil.biz/Open/2022/05/CO_20220525_MAT_457.PDF

In contrast during the 2012-16 term of Council when Mr. Ned Mannoun was Mayor and his Liberal Team had the majority in Council, the following controversial incidents occurred.

  • there were several major industrial disputes.
  • extra security staff were needed with Police present during Council Meetings and functions.
  • an overseer was appointed by the Office of Local Government to monitor Councillor behaviour at Council Meetings.
  • major Halal food conflicts and controversial media incidents occurred at several Council Meetings and functions.
  • a majority of dissenting Councillors walked out of a controversial Council Meeting.
  • an outstanding General Manager/CEO was terminated and replaced with a proven corrupt CEO who was incarcerated for his crimes.
  • an extremely competent legal counsel was terminated.
  • the Macquarie Mall project was considerably over budget and mismanaged. The debt is currently being re-paid via the City Development Fund (CDF).  
  • 2013-14 generated a deficit of $8.3 million,
  • 2016-17 also generated a deficit of $2.1 million and passed onto the following term of Council.
  • several political advisors to the Mayor were employed costing around $1.5 million.
  • the highly controversial “Propel Management Program” was implemented which resulted in numerous experienced and dedicated long-term staff leaving.
  • in 2017 the Propel Management Program was terminated by the following Council at substantial and undisclosed costs to ratepayers.

Overall, the 2012-16 term of Council was a disjointed and controversial term attracting considerable negative media.

The 2021 Elections:
Accusations of financial mismanagement by Council were the pre-election catch cries of the Mannoun-Liberal 2021 election campaign. However, the reality is that during the 2012-16 term of Council, while Mayor Mannoun and his team had the majority in Council of 6 to 5, they accumulated a deficit of $8.3 million and a further $2.1 million deficit during 2016-17 which was passed onto the following newly elected Council. Keep in mind, no Covid 19 issues existed during that term.

The Current Term of Council;
For the current term, 2021 to 2023, the makeup is a Liberal Mayor (Ned Mannoun), 4 Liberal and 4 Labor Councillors and 2 Independents, (1 LCIT and 1 Independent that resigned from LCIT after the 1st Council Meeting in February 2022, although elected under the LCIT banner).
The current term has not progressed well, the previous CEO, who steered Council through its most difficult time in recent history was terminated on the first Council meeting of its term via a series of controversial and legally challengable Mayoral Minutes. These occurred with the support of the Independent Deputy Mayor, an ex LCIT Councillor. (Voting was 6-5)

Community Feedback:
Community feedback is at an all-time negative low due to lack of maintenance such as repairing roads, cutting grass, removing illegal dumping and the overall untidy appearance of the Liverpool Local Government Area (LGA).
Council added a Special Rate Variation increase of 1% on top of the 1% allowed by the State Government (IPART). In added (most) Councillors including the Mayor voted for a superannuation contribution which effectively increased Councillors allowance, paid for by ratepayers, by 10.5%. I opposed that Motion and suggested that the superannuation contribution be taken out of Councillors current allowance, not added to it, I was outvoted 10-1.  

Liverpool Civic Place: The replacement of the Hoxton Park Road Administration Centre destroyed in the August 2010 fire.
The only possible controversial issue was the construction of Liverpool Civic Place and its loans repayment schedule approved prior to the impact of Covid 19.
Unfortunately, no-one could foresee the financial implications of Covid 19. However, remedial action was taken to ensure that the project remained viable and at no cost to ratepayers and Council services.
Note: the project and its financial viability was approved by several Independent as well Government Auditors and Councils’ Audit Risk Improvement Committee (ARIC). That committee is made up of 3 Independent Industry representatives skilled in Council risk assessment and finances.

Once completed, Liverpool Civic Place will be the single largest iconic change in the Liverpool Central Business District (CBD) and add outstanding facilities to the Liverpool Community, and all at no significant cost to the ratepayers.
The overall loan is expected to be paid back over 20-years from revenue obtained by leasing Council owned commercial space both within and external to Liverpool Civic Place. For the next 20 years Liverpool Civic Place will add billions of dollars in value to the CBD. 

I am proud of the fact that my vote together with the Labor Councillors ensured the construction of Civic Place, the voting was 6-5 in favour.

Liverpool City Councils’ Financial position:
Council currently (June 2021) has a deficit fluctuating around $11 million which represents less than 4% of its total annual budget. That deficit will be brought into surplus in less than 3 years and without affecting Council services.
Corrective steps were being taken in Councils’ previous term with further corrective steps  implemented during the current term. Overall, Liverpool City Councils’ finances should be in surplus within 3 years, provided Council does not undertake projects not included in its current 10-year plan.

Due to the unsubstantiated negative criticism levelled at the previous term of Council during the 2021 election campaign, the majority of Councillors called for a financial report comparing Liverpool City Council with like Councils for the 10-year period of 2011 to 2021.
That report clearly shows that Liverpool City Councils’ financial position is considerably better than four of seven neighbouring Councils, a tribute to the financial management of the previous Council, its CEO and senior staff.

Despite the negative criticism levelled at the previous Council, ratepayers should be aware that most Councils in NSW are in similar or worse financial positions, very few Councils operate with their Net Cost Of Services (NCOS) in surplus.

Examples below compare seven Councils of similar size to Liverpool City Council.

Councils with a DEFICIT of Net Cost Of Services, as of December 2021

  • Canterbury-Bankstown City Council is -$32.8 million.
  • Camden City Council is -$28.6 million.
  • Penrith City Council is -$19.8 million.
  • Blacktown City Council is -$16.8 million.
  • Liverpool City Council is -$11.2 million, and is lowest of the five surrounding Councils).

 Of the seven comparable Councils only three have a relatively small SURPLUS:

  • Fairfield City Council is $5.8 million.
  • Parramatta City Council is $4.1 million.
  • Campbeltown City Council is $2.7 million.

Logically, if these deficits were of a major concern for the State Government, it would need to appoint numerous Administrators in Councils throughout NSW.

Conclusion:
My overall impression is that Liverpool City Council performed very well during the past five years (2016-21) compared to our neighbouring Councils and despite the most difficult of times for Councils throughout Australia.

Unfortunately, the politically motivated misinformation spread during and after the Council Elections of December 2021 has had a negative impact on ratepayers’ opinion of Council. Hopefully, the above information clarifies Councils actual financial position.

Note, these are my opinions based on facts and readily available information on Councils Website and social media. I am not the spokesperson for Council, that is solely the responsibility of the elected Mayor.

 Councillor Peter Harle JP
26th May 2022

Revised December 2023.

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