SHE has never been one to hold her tongue when she passionately disagrees with something but Councillor Margaret O’Neill was champing at the bit on Tuesday night to lambast her administrative colleagues over the 150th Birthday budget blowout, which will see ratepayers fork out an extra $60,000 to pay for celebrations.
She was on her feet to disagree with the motion before it had even been tabled at the meeting.
She accused them of wasting public funds and demanded more information about not only where the money would be spent but also why the application for extra funding was left so late.
“I’m very concerned about this,” she told the chamber.
“You’re sending this to us here tonight without any background… I want a breakdown on what they are doing!” The request for extra funding came from Mayor Geoff Kettle, Cr Carol James and corporate services director Brendan Hollands and was detailed in a report, which revealed that a number of key events were relying on unsecured grant funding that had fallen through.
Council will be responsible for organising the Civic Reception on March 14 as well as the official launch of the Goulburn photo Book and the festivities on March 16, including the street parade, kids’ carnival, family concert and the fireworks display off the roof of St Saviour’s Cathedral.
Council will also facilitate an onsite broadcast by Ray Hadley’s Continuous Call Team on the day, which will include paying for their personal security.
Crs James and Kettle argued that the $50,000 budget would not cover additional catering costs, Mr Hadley’s security, public announcement systems for the civic reception or the street parade.
“This is a major event for the city,” Cr James told her colleagues.
“This will be a very important time for the city. We’re not wasting money. We have a lot of important people coming to our city so we need to make it something special.”
Mayor Kettle argued that it was a once in a generation event and there would be few opportunities in the near future to promote the city nationally as well as we will be able to next month. As a result, he agreed with Cr James that we need to make the city’s celebration count.
He said Council probably wouldn’t need to spend the entire $60,000 however it was fundamentally important that the extra funds be allocated to cover unexpected contingencies that may arise.
He also vowed that a full report would be returned to council detailing how much had actually been spent.
Cr Robin Saville opposed the motion. He believed $110,000 was a “very significant” amount of money and that relying on unsecured grant funding wasn’t economically sound.
Cr Alfie Walker tenuously supported the motion but questioned the point in having a budget if it wasn’t going to be stuck to.
Deputy Mayor Bob Kirk agreed with his colleagues that $110,000 was a lot of money and that the extra $60,000 being requested could have probably been spent better elsewhere but argued in context it wasn’t “that much”.
He pointed out that Canberra spent more than $2million on its centenary celebrations and that other councils often spent upwards of $150,000 on major tourism.
Being as that the next milestone birthday party wouldn’t occur for another 50 years and the opportunity we have now to promote the city, it isn’t inappropriate to allocate the extra funds.
The motion was carried, with Crs O’Neill and Saville being the only ones voting against.