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on Grants …

The Beagle Editor, The following media release might be of interest to you southern readers on Grants …

A significant portion of all council’s incomes is derived from Federal & State Grants.

In the case of NSW regional councils, including Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC), the average percentage of total income derived from Grants is 29.0% or $26.7m.

In 2015/2016, BVSC derived $18.8m or 21.5% of its revenue from Grants, while Eurobodalla Shire enjoyed $24.7m or 19.7% of its revenues from Grants.

Given the importance of Grants in meeting council’s funding needs, the ability of councils to successfully access them is obviously crucial.

So it was that on August 1st last year that a ratepayer in the Eurobodalla Shire wrote to his council & asked for “a summary of the grant applications made by council in the 2016/2017 financial year, including details as to the number of successful and unsuccessful applications made to the NSW state government and federal government, by major purpose and total dollar value.”

Within a week, Eurobodalla Shire Council had responded to that request, enclosing the financial information for 2015/2016 & explaining that the information for 2016/2017 was still being finalised.

In what some might find a remarkable coincidence, the BVSRRA also wrote to BVSC at the same time, requesting the same information.

In contrast to the response offered by Eurobodalla Shire Council, BVSC simply ignored the BVSRRA’s request, as well as its polite reminder sent some six weeks later.

The BVSRRA then decided to submit a GIPA Application seeking the information on September 27th, 2017.

On October 24th, 2017, BVSC issued a Notice of Decision in response to the association’s GIPA Application, confirming that “It has been determined that processing your application in its current form would constitute an unreasonable and substantial diversion of Council resources.” BVSC went on to say that “I am hereby advising you that your request for information stated above, dated 3 October 2017, will be refused unless you amend your application”. Given that BVSC provided no guidance as to how the BVSRRA might amend its application to make it easier for council to respond & given that the BVSRRA believed that BVSC had both an obligation to substantiate the basis of its position & also suggest in what way the BVSRRA might consider amending its application, the BVSRRA decided to request the Information & Privacy Commission to review BVSC’s decision, which it did on November 15th . Some three months later, the IPC advised the BVSRRA that it considered BVSC’s decision “is justified”. While the BVSRRA believes that the IPC’s decision is wrong, there is no easy way to pursue the matter. More importantly, while the BVSRRA originally set-out to gather information on how Grants are managed in the world of local government, an unintended consequence was that a huge difference in the way that inquiries by two neighbouring councils: one proactively seeking to assist the inquirer (Eurobodalla) & the other looking for any reason not to (Bega Valley). The BVSRRA has previously made comment about the rotten, pervasive culture that it believes infects BVSC & the way it deals with its constituents. The nature of BVSC’s culture is the responsibility of BVSC’s general manager & her senior management team. The responsibility for requiring it to change rests with the elected council. The BVSRRA maintains that neither group is fit for purpose & sadly, as long as that remains the case, the residents & ratepayers of the Bega Valley can only expect at best unacceptable levels of performance. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Bega #Opinion