Councillors and community left in the dark on budget details
Eurobodalla Council has on exhibition, for community feedback their Delivery Program and Operational Plan. Eurobodalla Council has released for public comment its draft blueprint for the next few years, the Delivery Program and Operational Plan.
Council’s Delivery Program 2022-26 outlines services and major projects the organisation will deliver in its term of office.
Council advises us that "The Operational Plan 2022-23 breaks the program down further, listing individual projects for the coming financial year, and is supported by a budget, capital program and proposed rates, fees and charges." On inspection though the claim that "The Operational Plan 2022-23 breaks the program down further, listing individual projects for the coming financial year" is false. The Tables below come from the Draft 2022-26 Delivery Program and 2022-23 Operational Plan (2.0 MB) If one was interested in which roads might be rehabilitated, which urban roads resealed, what cycleways are proposed or which bridges might be renewed or bus shelters built there is no breakdown information. There certainly isn't any "listing individual projects".
When we look south to Bega Valley Shire they present their draft Operational Plan and Budget 2022-23 Bega say "The annual budget is determined from detailed information of projects and programs that are expected to be delivered within the 2022-2023 financial year and is connected to actions in the Operational Plan". This is the detail the Bega Valley Shire provides their community in regards to the budget:
The detail shown above is very much like the detail that used to be provided to the community by Eurobodalla Council. So what has changed that sees Eurobodalla provide little more than single line items with no detail whilst asserting that they are "listing individual projects". When questioned on this,, with a request to see the full budget papers that Councillors would have been provided the Council response was: "The councillors received the same information in briefings as is contained in the exhibited Delivery Program and Operational Plan documents.
"The DPOP layout was different previously – it changed when Council implemented a new business system in 2017".
"Budgets are broken down into individual projects after Council adopts the overall budgets in the DPOP".
"More detailed project budgets will be presented in reports to Council for consideration at a later stage".
It appears that the Councillors and the ratepayers are equally in the dark based on the above response. It appears that they (and we) will only discover the detail after they adopt the draft Delivery Program and Operational Plan documents. Council advise that things changed in 2017. Yet the Operational Plan 2017 - 18 shows detail:
as does the Operational Plan 2018-19 below:
and as does the Operational Plan 2019-20 :
You can see from the examples shown above of the previous Operational Plans that the Council's statement "The DPOP layout was different previously – it changed when Council implemented a new business system in 2017" simply doesn't hold water. . It should be noted that there WERE changes in Eurobodalla's finance section in 2019. In 2019 Council's Director Corporate and Commercial Services resigned. He was not replaced. The Director position was removed. Finance matters passed to the General Manager who then appointed a Chief Financial Officer. It was the Operational Plan 2020-21 that saw the change in format and the removal of detail. Dr Catherine Dale, Eurobodalla's current General Manager (Eurobodalla Council’s general manager Dr Catherine Dale has announced she will not seek re-appointment when her contract concludes on 30 September 2022.), is responsible for the delivery of this abridged budget format (extract below), and for delivering this same abridged format to the new councillors as well as to the community. Council is calling for submissions and comment around the budget. With limited detail there is little that the community can respond to when asked to make submissions. Note: Closing date for submissions: Thursday 26 May 2022, 5.00pm It is understood that the Council's Chief Financial Officer will be resigning to take up a new position within the region. This will leave the new councillors with even less access to informed professional financial advice until the position is filled, or until a new General Manager is appointed who might consider reinstating the vital position of a Director of Finance.
In the meantime we remain in the dark.