Wednesday, 18th April, 2012
Concerns over Council draft to tackle deficit
By Erica Visser
A City Council draft plan to tackle its looming financial deficit is unacceptable, according to the NSW Division of Local Government.
The plan was adopted at a monthly meeting in February after the Division expressed concern over council’s decade-long deficit and poor financial record-keeping.
The Division’s Chief Executive, Ross Woodward, has responded with a number of concerns about council’s implementation of the plan.
“I am concerned that the strategy outlined in the action plan to address Council’s ongoing budget problem is inadequate and does not address the key issues facing council,” said Mr Woodward in his letter to council.
“While the action plan proposes that Council pursue efficiencies, nothing is specified and no strategy is given as to how such efficiencies will be implemented.”
Mr Woodward criticised council for past decisions which have resulted in an increased deficit.
“(Regular financial monitoring) is of little effect if decisions of Council run counter to addressing the situation,” he said.
“On 30 November 2011, for example, Council voted to increase its expenditure by over $600,000 on unbudgeted items (Alma Oval Lighting $400,000, BH Regional Aquatic Centre- capital budget variation up to 10 per cent and Mining Deaths in the Line of Lode Publication $20,000.)
“These expenditures do not appear to be of an unforeseen or urgent nature and they should have been included in Council’s 2011/12 budget if they were of priority to the community.”
Council’s General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said that council would present a revised plan at council’s next monthly meeting on April 26.
“Significant progress has been made in terms of improving Council’s financial management practices throughout 2012 and we are confident that the requests made by the Division in relation to our action plan are in the process of being developed or implemented,” Mr Zaknich said.
“We are confident that the financial reporting issues raised by the Division will be resolved during the 2011/12 financial audit.”
The issue will be tackled at today’s Corporate Services Committee meeting where Council’s response will be tabled.