South Gippsland Shire urged to cut spending
THE South Gippsland Shire Council has been told to curb its spending and cut non-essential services in response to the proposed 2015/16 annual budget.
Twenty five submissions were received in response to the draft budget, 11 of which were presented at a special committee meeting of council last Wednesday.
Whether council will take any notice of the submissions or just rubber stamp the 4.9 per cent rate increase will become known at the special meeting on June 10 to respond to the submissions, ahead of the budget meeting.
Meg Knight from Foster said she was disappointed with what was supposed to be a lean, mean budget.
“This is just a same old, same old with a little tinkering around the edges,” she said.
Ms Knight told council it needs to ditch overspending on unnecessary or duplicated services, stop paying consultants and to close its commercial ventures, such as caravan parks and Coal Creek.
“By the end of June 2016, on my calculations, council will have spent $1.46 million on the setup costs and capital works for the Port Welshpool and Yanakie caravan parks,” she said.
“Lease the caravan parks back to commercial operators and do not even think about taking over Waratah Bay Caravan Park.”
She said council would receive lease income from the parks and would save $469,000 per annum in employee costs.
Coal Creek has lost $2.24 million over the last four years. By June 2016 the cost burden of Coal Creek to ratepayers will be $3.4 million.
“We ratepayers can simply not afford Coal Creek,” Ms Knight said.
“I call on the council to stem the bleeding. Either close it or pass on the management to an incorporated volunteer committee and let them run the site.”
Ms Knight said Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria both exist to promote tourism.
“Why does council have a tourism unit to duplicate the services and plans provided by these two organisations,” she said.
“If this council didn’t spend $1 on tourism in 2015/16 I bet we would get the same number of visitors.”
Wilma Western from Leongatha was concerned about the rate rises, surpluses, the municipal precinct and staff costs.
She said employee costs continue to rise above CPI due to the present EBA – an increase not much under $1 million for the next budget.
“While a restructure of positions is proposed, the net reduction of 0.5 EFT is not impressive,” she said.
“And while one directorship will go plus some management titles, there will still be a lot of coordinators, so the progress towards flattening the staffing structure seems minimal.”
Ms Western said most people want the council to deliver basic services such as infrastructure renewal, sustainable waste management, streetscape planning and maintenance, children and aged services and disability access well and effectively.
“Too much paper warfare and too much council PR just tends to make community members sceptical while becoming convinced there is room to trim staff members,” she said.
Ian Nicholas from Outtrim said he personally believes the proposed budget is fiscally irresponsible.
“It fails to address the underlying operational costs that have been continually allowed to increase for many years,” he said.
“You as councillors need to make some very tough decisions about what services you are going to provide to be able to survive.”
He said the council organisational restructure delivers very little, if any savings to council.
“Imagine if staff levels had been reduced by 10 – in excess of $1 million in savings, 10 empty desks and no need for a $23 million office,” he said.
“Council must take control and cut costs.”
Vincent Morfuni from Venus Bay said putting the draft budget out for review is a sham.
“I might be cynical, but there is no point having a meeting where people can speak on what has already been decided,” he said.
“Council has more departments than is necessary. There is nothing in the budget to indicate there is a streamlining of the administration to ensure future savings.”
This year, council has separated the hearing of submissions from the consideration and determination of the presentations.
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