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Mayor rejects secrecy claim

Tuesday, 3rd March, 2015

By Erica Visser

City Council has defended its communication strategy following a councillor’s scathing accusations of a culture of secrecy.

Councillor Peter Black said last week that closed-door deals and a raft of controversial decisions had taken a hit to Council’s approval level.

The comments were printed within the BDT on Friday and a media release, which claimed Council had been open with the community on its finances, was later released.

“Both the quarterly budget report and the six-monthly integrated 2033 Community Strategic Plan and 2013-2017 Delivery Program are the mechanisms through which Council and the community are informed of Council’s progress,” Mayor Wincen Cuy was quoted.

“As a Council we have set high goals as part of the community’s vision for this city, and we are making headway, but acknowledge more needs to be done. 

“We have been open with the community in relation to our financial situation; the quarterly report shows that we are making improvements in this area.”

Despite this, Councillor Jim Richards agreed with Cr Black that ratepayers weren’t happy with Council at present.

“Peter Black is right. We aren’t being perceived very positively in the community at the moment,” Cr Richards said.

“They’re seeing Council as a negative force, as someone that doesn’t consult with ratepayers on important issues.”

The statement from Council also focused on the “tremendous effort” made to rein-in costs over the past year.

Council’s revised budget showed a projected deficit of more than $5.7 million for the current financial year - down $377,000 from the previous figure.

“Council has made a tremendous effort over the past 12 months to implement cost-saving measures which will see benefits accruing as early as next year,” Mayor Wincen Cuy said.

“While we have some way to go to achieve a break even bottom line, the relative progress has been significant.”

At a meeting on Wednesday last week, Cr Black lashed out once again regarding the constant reassurance that Council was headed “in the right direction.”

“The bottom line is an operating loss of $5.7 million. There’s been a lot of reverie about going in the right direction but I maintain that we’re not going in the right direction until we’re making an operating profit and until we’ve refurbished, in particular, the asset replacement funds,” he said.

“This Council has no asset replacement funds to speak of. That’s just an unheard of situation. 

“I have no idea how that situation came about but it is a deplorable state.”

Meanwhile, Council has finally revealed the cost for its operational restructure, which sat at $2.2 million.

A $1 million loan would be taken out to help cover the cost, which included redundancies, and was expected to be repaid within three years.

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