Rant: Leichhardt council living within its means?

Will Leichhardt Council live within its means? Only time will tell but Liberal Councillor, John Jobling, is sceptical…

At a November meeting Leichardt Council unanimously resolved that “it would not support any Special Rate Variation” to attempt to reduce deterioration in its roads, footpaths, parks and storm water drains. It further resolved to “live within its means.”

Prior to the meeting, I submitted to the Mayor and council minute-taker the Liberal eight-point motion opposing the Special Rate Variation rise and rejecting any further Council expenditure. Yet, the next day Rozelle received a ‘Green’ flyer claiming that Liberals and Labor supported a rise.

Then at the December meeting, Leichardt Council refused to even discuss a Liberal Urgency Motion relating to future staff salary increases.

Like most councils, Leichardt Council staff costs are about 50 percent of all spending. I wonder if ratepayers are aware that during the last three years Local Government NSW and the unions agreed to an annual 3.2 percent salary increase plus CPI. The State Government last year set the rate rise at 3.4 percent. Virtually ALL this rise was absorbed by staff wage increases.
This year the government will allow only a 2.3 percent rate rise. Why did Council refuse to discuss how this could affect its coming budget? Especially if LG NSW and the unions agreed on a larger increase. If the increase is greater than 2.3 percent, Council could face a shortfall of funds between $250,000 to $400,000.

Remembering that Council voted to “live within its means” what must be cut or not undertaken? The claim that it would cut wages was proved to be totally false and a press release to that effect by the Mayor had to be corrected.

If teachers, politicians and police salaries are subjected to CPI increase limits why are local government employees different?

Furthermore, the ALP supported deferring an application for a grant for local infrastructure resource support funding from the NSW Government at a special three percent interest rate for roads. It is difficult to understand why the ALP and two of the three Greens councillors voted to defer an application seeking a grant to restore existing assets, especially as the application needed to be lodged in December and Council’s next meeting is not till February 2014 – this means we have missed out.

Our roads need such subsidised funding but Council seems happy to allow them to further deteriorate along with the footpaths, parks and drainage.

With the ALP/Green agreement to have a Green Mayor and Deputy in 2014/2015 what other deals have been agreed to?

I hope our precincts will get together and carefully examine the draft budget when it becomes available. Personally, I still have issues with the fact that Council expends funds in areas that private enterprise is prepared to undertake. For example, whilst the Bell’s Store project in Balmain is a great restoration, are residents aware that it cost $16,000,000 and still needs almost another $1,000,000 to make it habitable? The question has to be asked: should Council have undertaken such a task?

The draft budget for 2014/2015 will really test the Council commitment to “live within its means.”

Words: John Jobling

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