Dear Beagle Editor,
After reading through council responses to community submissions on the Draft Delivery Program and Operational Plan & Budget, I was dismayed to find that there were a number of issues from my submission that were not addressed.
Hence my open letter to the GM seeking responses that were not supplied in Attachment A of next week’s council meeting agenda.
General Manager, re: council’s response to submissions on the Draft Delivery Program 17-21 & Operational Plan and Budget 2020-21 After reading through council’s responses in Attachment A for the next council meeting 23 June, I found there were issues I raised in my submission that were not addressed. For this reason, I seek your feedback on the following: * There is no consideration given to using the $6m in profit rather than imposing a rate rise on a financially stressed community. Nor is there any mention of getting rid of wasteful/unnecessary expenditure like the Mystery Shopper program. Why not? * Council has received various allocations of funding from the Government for bushfire recovery and the implications associated with COVID – how much, for what purposes, where has it been spent, how has this funding benefited council’s bottom line? * Council states that it has secured “grant funding to assist with invasive species such as weeds and feral animals.” And then goes on to say, “The control of invasive species is the landholder’s responsibility. Council has an advisory role.” If council only has an advisory role, and landholders do the work, what is the money to be spent on? * Re ‘Clean healthy waterways/catchments’ - No mention is made as to why council pumped highly contaminated water from the Deua River while it was in full flood immediately after the bush fires. * If council refuses to accept that human induced Climate Change is a scientific fact, why do we need a ‘Council Variable and Changing Climate Adaption Strategy’? (Why put a band aid on a sore that isn’t there?) * As regards the BBRAALC, I remind council of its Asset Management Strategy, “Council must weigh up the benefits of any new infrastructure assets against the longer term financial sustainability and affordability taking account of the ‘whole of life costs’ including financing, maintenance, operating and replacement costs, and with a view to the intergenerational equity. It is critical that our Council and community, leaves a positive legacy, rather than a debt for our children.” The community need assurance on this issue. This assurance is reliant upon disclosure of a current up dated business case. When is this likely to occur? Cost of the BBRAALC – 2019-20 budget, $18,700,000, 2020-21 Budget, $44,983,450 totalling $63,683,450. As council only has $55m, where in the budget does the extra $8,683,450 come from? * On page 56 council states that it has complied with its Engagement Framework. “The Framework states that removal a shire wide service or facility, such as 50m pool, has a moderate to high impact (level 4) and requires ‘involvement’ and ‘collaboration’ with all stakeholders. Why did council not involve/collaborate on the removal of this community facility? * I do not understand why the Resourcing Strategy is not available to the public, particularly the Long Term Financial Plan. For what reason is it kept confidential? * Is the Mystery Shopper program still contracted to CSBA? What is the annual cost? Under what heading is this expenditure to be found? * Council states the 8% increase in the Environmental Levy on Farmland is due to land value. This is contrary to the Ombudsman’s Fact Sheet 4: Many people, “argue that if land value goes up, rates must also rise. Yet because of rate capping, rates revenue cannot increase by more than the percentage increase approved by the Minister.” WATER SEWER DIVIDEND In response to my queries regarding the Water Sewer Dividend, you simply reiterated the mandatory conditions I had already identified, instead of responding to my concerns/queries. So I ask again: As the following documents are mandatory in order to derive a dividend, - Does council have a current(updated last 3 years) Strategic Business Plan or Financial Plan(for at least next 20 years) – p22, as I cannot find one on Council’s website. - Does council have a current Drought Management Plan(DMP) yet? I contacted council about this Plan 6th September last year, as it was not publicly available. It was forwarded to me upon request but was dated 2011 – this Plan is supposed to be updated at least every 5 years. Mr Sharpe assured me (email 13 Sept), “given the current dry period, we have commenced a full update of the DMP leading into summer to ensure it reflects the current context.” “Once the update is complete, we will make the revised DMP available on our website.” It’s been 9 months and still no DMP on council’s website. Please forward me a link/copy if there is one. - The IWCM Plan has not been updated with 2016 census data or recent weather data. This will impact predictions and long term management, planning and service provision. Outcomes are not being met. * So, how has council been demonstrating its compliance with the 6 criteria without a Drought Management Plan, a Strategic Business Plan(that I can find) or an updated IWCM Plan? * Are Councillors provided with the mandatory independent Compliance and Financial Audit Reports? * You state that “council resolved to transfer dividends from Water Sewer Funds ........... “ at its 24 Sept 2019. Yes it did. But there was no resolution affirming compliance with that Best Practice Guidelines – a mandatory requirement. Could you please provide me with: - a copy of the last Independent Compliance Audit Report - copies or links to council resolutions where it was resolved, “that council has complied with the Best Practice Guidelines.” Thank you Patricia Gardiner Deua River Valley
Open letter to Council's General Manager, Catherine Dale, asking why she has not included responses to submission questions around the upcoming budget.