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Political promises don't add up

Council is controlled by economic rationalists. They have to be because they have to be responsible for money that isn't theirs - it is our money that we give them to best spend it for our needs and benefit. They are required to be open, transparent, trustworthy and totally accountable to us, the ratepayer. The role of the councillors (and council) is to find out what we as a community want and provide it if it is justifiable and affordable. With the BIG LIST that includes all of their electioneering promises they go back to the Council bean counters to work out the finances. because there is only so much money in the Council bucket.

The Council economic rationalists remind the councillors that if you build new stuff like aquatic centres, toilets, footpaths, skateparks, playgrounds then you are required to maintain them to a satisfactory standard and, at the end of the asset's life, replace it. Council is all about Roads and Rates and Rubbish and the rates we pay are meant to ensure that we have roads that are in a satisfactory condition with satisfactory bridges, libraries, halls, toilets, playgrounds, picnic facilities and pathways. We demand value for money but we also demand quality so the provision of community assets are expensive. We also demand that the facilities and assets are kept in good order. So maintenance costs are high. We demand that reserves are mowed, soft fall in playgrounds fluffed and toilet rolls in public facilities are replaced. Meantime all the costs involved to keep these things in good order increase. As do the wages to pay all the staff and contractors that are charged with maintaining it all. Remember the Special Rate Variation. Council told us all that we had too much stuff and not enough income from rates to maintain it. They cried poor that IPART enforced rate-pegging and as a result we had a huge backlog of assets that needed maintenance. They told us either we decrease our expectation of the definition of Satisfactory or we pay more. 11,000 signed a petition saying DON"T increase the rates and lets pull in our belts but Council said ignored the petition and the petitioners and went ahead and told IPART that Eurobodalla was poor and needed to have an increase in rates in order to deal with the mounting backlog. IPART agreed to a massive rate increase and here we are paying considerably more. The Economic Rationalist game continues. As everyone is aware there are considerable State and Federal grants to burn at the moment. Hundreds of millions of dollars available for community building partnerships, boating and cultural facilities and sporting grants to increase participation. All of these require a project, a clear definition of what the project is and who and how it benefits the community and an estimate of costs. These projects are referred to as "shovel ready" and generally require the Council to sign off that they endorse the projects. Why? Most often the projects are on Council controlled land, or are in council controlled facilities and most often, after the project is completed Council has to maintain the new facility. An example might be a new boating pontoon, a new toilet block, a new skateboard facility, a new playground feature, an extension to a hall, even a rainwater tank attached to a hall. Though the money to pay for this might be co-contributed by grants and community fundraising, come the end of the day Council will have to find funds to maintain them. So Council doesn't like new stuff because their budget is already stretched maintaining existing stuff that grows older by the day. Instead of resealing every seven years they stretch it out to 12 years, instead of replacing dodgy playground equipment they apply bandaids. Park furniture goes unpainted, mowing areas are rationalised and the very thought of taking on new stuff puts fear into them as they wonder where the money will come from. It can only come from increasing our rates or pairing back on other expenditures. The question to be asked is how many "shovel ready" projects have Council's economic rationalist prepared and endorsed. We understand that there aren't any. They recently even went to the extent of taking the Missing Link of the South Head cycleway off their Pathways Strategy which effectively blocked the community from independently seeking funding for the project. For over twenty years they have refused to advise the Tuross Head community of Where they can have a community built and funded skateboard facility and What might be allowed so that the community could then raise funds and make grant applications. Without Council's endorsement of the facility on their land no application can be made. So we now have conversations about the Batemans Bay Bowling site, a possible new aquatic centre, an exhibition space and a performance space. Considerable funding is available however the big questions by the Council economic rationalists are "How do we then pay for maintenance?' This ongoing reluctance to build new stuff hasn't been communicated to the public because it flies in the face of electioneering promises with statements like "The Bay needs and Aquatic Centre". Sure they do however Council can barely scratch together enough money to maintain its existing swimming pools and both the Narooma Indoor Pool and Batemans Bay pools are failing rapidly. The talk of by-passes of towns also drives the rationalist nuts because all they can see are the roads that were once maintained and renewed with State money now becoming a new burden on the community purse. Keep the old Batemans Bay bridge and pass the costs of maintenance over to Eurobodalla Council? I don't think so. So at the end of the day are the economic rationalists in charge of the Council purse strings right in continually saying NO to new stuff. And is it irresponsible of politicians to suggest there are monies available for new stuff knowing that the community then has to face the ongoing burden of maintenance.

#Opinion #Editorial #LeiParker #Weekly

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