PARADOX — FIT FOR THE FUTURE

There can be no question about it. The General Manager has, by way of the audit report, told us we are fit for the future. (Local media Wednesday 30 November 2016).

In a nutshell we built our wealth by the sum of $116,323 over the last year. This means every ratepayer has an extra $4. And if there are four people per family you get a dollar per person. What a result.

We got more money coming in as funds were up by $61 million. This was in part due to the grants from the State Government up an extra $50 million. So presumably we raised an extra $11 million by ourselves. Well we know where some $5 million came from because they put the rates up.

If you look at it there are some 30,000 rate payers in the area who paid some $81 million in rates. I have used round figures for the sake of convenience. So on average every ratepayer contributes $2700 per annum. This is for rates and annual charges. It does not include the costs a ratepayer incurs for say the consumption of water (apart from the annual cost of providing the service).

So with 30,000 ratepayers and $6 million surplus it means we all pay $200 a year in charges. Now this is only for water and I am sure most of you will have immediately multiplied your quarterly water bill and found it to be in excess of $200 per annum. But this is a little unfair because council would have included the “forecast income ” in their calculations. It is not necessarily all surplus monies.

Council try to say they are efficient because they spend $1.2 million less this year. Strange but they have $1.2 million in retained earnings. So does this mean they had planned to spend the money but did not get around to it? Does this mean they are not as efficient as they might have us believe?

Further did anyone notice no mention was made of the re-vote (see earlier council meeting)? This is money council included in its plans for last year. They planned to spend this money but did not get around to it. They fell $19 million short. So if they have $1.2 million in retained funds it looks  as though $17.8 million was diverted to unplanned works. Does this make them efficient?

I forgot if a council is fit for the future it gets preferential access to grants. But according to the auditor the increase was largely due to the State Government grant for the Pacific Highway bypass. Does this mean the future bypass ? Has council somehow used this money or should our equity reflect this payment? Yes the equity rose by $116,000 but is that all you can generate from $50 million. That is a return on investment of 0.2 of a percentage.

But if we planned to spend $19 million and only have funds of $1.2 million what did we spend $17.8 on? Was it on unplanned work?

Perhaps council just made the figures look good. Retained earnings $1.2 million and/or a decrease in expenditure could mean that we are paying our way? Can we tick the box and claim to be fit for the future? As the General Manager said the Auditor General will conduct the next audit….. from this financial year. So what? We are ready in this financial year General Manager, or did you not know that, so why is it necessary to make this statement. I see, you think that this is being open and transparent do you? By the way does the Auditor General do an audit every year? Or are we under  some form of special  scrutiny?

It is a worry given the release from the IPART the other day. Rate pegging will be at a reduced rate so does that mean council will need to put in another variation to rate levels?  Council just told us we got more money and spent less.

It seems that to be efficient the council has to be inefficient otherwise it cannot achieve the result it got. For if the council was efficient, and spent the full amount planned, we would have a huge deficit. And that would make us inefficient. If we were inefficient we would not be fit for the future. This is a paradox. So what say you Council?

Author    Con.     Fused

Commentt

“paradox” a statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory. Well done Con just the sort of statement that emanates from the office of the General Manager. ..Hugh

‘Government Grabs more Gold’

Hi Hugh

I hope all is well!

The following is provided for publication on CoffsOutlook

I have just received a rates hike notice from the Coffs Harbour City Council.

It wasn’t called this of course – being disguised as a ‘Your Council – Your Community‘ notice.

It should’ve been called a ‘Government Grabs more Gold’ notice!

I don’t buy all of the bleating in this notice about ‘hard budget choices’.

Remember how last year they budgeted for 6% salary increases across the board for 12-13 and for the ensuing three years – 6% a year in salary increases for four years straight!!!

Is this the real reason why the rates are going up again – this time by 5.43%

Council should be benchmarking staff salaries on comparable roles in the local community and in adjoining regional local councils like the Grafton City Council – not on Sydney!!!

We have two large upmarket properties (>1000m2) in two major Australian cities, both within 20 minutes’ drive of the city centers and last year Coffs Harbour City Council rates (excl. water & sewage) for our remotely located Coffs Harbour land in what is substantially a little coastal retirement village, which, by the way, the Coffs Harbour City Council took ‘pre-developed’ by other Councils through mis-representation of residents preference to remain with their prior Council, were already 6-7% higher than for these two properties ($1421 cmf $1344 & $1161). This is before this rate hike of 5.43%! Neither of the other Councils has proposed more than twice the inflation rate increase for 2013-14. The Coffs Harbour City Council is opening up their lead on other rates – not catching up on them!!!

We have considered investing in more property in Coffs Harbour and the Council rates kill the financial viability of doing this even with suppressed property prices. The Council rates charged on units are socially criminal and are robbing current property investors (providers of low income homes) of reasonable property price returns!

We can only assume that we are being ripped off by Fat Cats who cannot manage a Council – who feel that they have to pay double the going increases to employees to keep things going.

Last year the Council sort-of asked permission in advance for the increases by way of an (empty) invitation to comment. Comments were of course registered and ignored and the following increases were pushed through regardless: water consumption (5%), sewerage access (5.5%) and waste collection & recycling charges (up to 15%).

It seems this year the Coffs Harbour City Council will try the ‘asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission’ approach with the invitation for comments to take place AFTER the rate hike is in effect.

As I said a year ago and basically repeat here:

Wake up Coffs Coast residents – demand an independent external review into government efficiency at the Coffs Harbour City Council, an external independent review of Council senior staff remuneration and ‘member’s expenses’ and protest any increases in rates until the Coffs Harbour City Council budget transparently aligns with those of well managed adjacent regional local government areas!

And the winner is…

It is almost the time for local residents to consider the vexed question of whom do they want to represent them over the next four years?  To help residents, a review of the some of the major projects debated during the past eighteen months will be presented.  In no particular order the following topics will come under the spotlight:

  1. Purchase of the old Catholic Club site,
  2. Fisherman’s Club,
  3. Tax on 4wds accessing beaches,
  4. Botanic Gardens,
  5. Pioneer Park,
  6. Capital Hill – sale,
  7. Castle Street toilets fiasco,
  8. Coastal Works including Union and contractor issues, rebranding etc,
  9. Transition to Sustainability Project (outcomes?),
  10. Jetty Foreshores,
  11. Jetty Theatre fiasco,
  12. Rate Increase Proposals (including 10 year proposal),
  13. Community consultation,
  14. CBD planning (integration and timeline),
  15. Rally Australia,
  16. Airport (disjointed yet continuous changes),
  17. En Globo Affair,
  18. Management of Fit For The Future (special focus on benefits residents denied by council actions).

This list is not exhaustive – simply it is a recall of the issues where some of the community expressed some degree of dissatisfaction with the way council handled the matter.

A state of constant debate, some would say turmoil, punctuates the orderly running of our council.  Is this a healthy product or merely a distraction?  The question residents need to answer is how much of this bickering could have been avoided?

How many of these issues were foreshadowed in the council strategic plans?  How many issues had recognisable strategic goals and timeframes allocated to them?  When, if ever, where council plans adjusted for “unforeseen” events impacting on the plans?  When did the administration provide realistic reporting of milestone achievements (which were made available to the residents)?  In short, how do the residents know council is working to any co-ordinated and comprehensive “master” plan?

In coming days a score sheet will be developed.  It is for you, the resident, to complete.  The design is primarily to allow the “local” to grade and monitor council performance.  With some many issues to consider your own “personal” review before the election date might be of assistance when it is time to vote.  There is no predetermined pass mark.  A pass is a matter for your personal interpretation.

Coffs Waste

At long last the problems of uncontrolled feral supermarket trollies has been replaced by a an enlightened proposition ‘C W’.

By way of background it is important to look at the Council book ‘Your Council your community’ otherwise known as the ‘Blue Book’.  Put briefly Council is concerned with the escalation of the arrears in the area of repairs and maintenance.  Currently at $70m.  To overcome the problem Council proposed an increase in the level of rates so that the services that we are used to can continue. Unfortunately this is not good enough because Council has been somewhat REMISS. Who in the right mind, expects the Council to continue to provide services that puts us further in deficit?

The answer is simple – just ask the Council. Increase the income and one way to do this is “to contract” out services to other Councils. Wow, why didn’t someone think of this before now?  Council tendered for a contract to supply services to Grafton Council by undercutting private enterprise tenderers.  The tendered cost was some $200,000 under private enterprise.  Now either private enterprise is remarkably inefficient or Coffs Council is super efficient despite their own arrears problem of $70m.

CONSIDER THE FACTS

  1. Is Council overstaffed to the extent that the surplus staff can be redirected to do external work?

2.    Have all the arrears been eliminated? Has Council suddenly completed the backlog of arrears                            or, do you still have potholes in the local roads near you?

3.    Why was it necessary to apply for a special variation to the rates if the arrears no longer exist?

(The Council submission for this variation was for a period of 10 years, so this seems to cancel out the elimination of the arrears.)

4.    Did Council include all the costs associated with the tender proposal in their submission?  In other words is there a proper cost analysis or job card?  Have the Council for instance included employee long service leave and superannuation components  Have adequate allowance been made for the depreciation  for assets, owned by our community, which are to be used for the external work?  If the Council can undercut private enterprise to such an extent why is it that they are unable to apply the same processes to the day to day work in this city?

5.    What proportion of the costs associated with this tender is picked up by local residents?  As employees of our Council we are paying their wages.  Should we expect them to do our work first?

6.    How does this outsourcing fit in with the stated aim of the State Government to provide employment opportunities in regional areas?  Does it not have the opposite effect in that it creates unemployment?

7.    If the arrears have not been extinguished then, who made the strategy to divert resources away from local projects?  Who sanctioned the further escalation of the arrears?  What is the rationale behind such a decision?  Do the residents of this city deserve better treatment?

8.    What is the impact of this work on the Council planning documents, including the 2030 plan?

Community strategic plan, the delivery plan and the budgetary plan?

 

Note. Councillor Palmer recently resigned

 

THE TEAM

COFFS HARBOUR CITY COUNCIL