Goulburn Mulwaree Council will renew its membership of a local government body, despite the objections of three councillors.
The majority decided at the most recent meeting to pay the $38,540 membership of Local Government NSW for a further year. But Cr Sam Rowland was opposed.
“I think the organisation is ineffective and a complete waste of ratepayers’ money,” Cr Rowland said.
He is understood to be upset that the council also pays almost $1000 per councillor to attend the annual LGNSW conference. The council has also said recently that many of the services provided could be sourced from elsewhere.
The amount had risen six per cent, prompting councillors to defer a decision several months ago. In the interim, they asked LGNSW president Keith Rhoades and chief executive Donna Rygate to visit and justify the hike.
They did so in August in a meeting which Mayor Bob Kirk acknowledged “became a little heated.”
Cr Kirk and general manager Warwick Bennett disagreed with the pair on the number of times the council had used LGNSW services, arguing the cases cited in an earlier letter were “repetitive.”
The latter stated that the council had “at least 42 contacts” with industrial officers and received 89 pieces of advice over 10 months. In addition, it had provided support on policy matters on 47 occasions, saved the council an estimated $345,000 from the use of Local Government procurement contracts and kept 20 people “in the know” about sector developments, via a newsletter.
But in a report, council general manager Warwick Bennett stated that many of the pair’s questions were unanswered.
However he was buoyed by the organisation’s receptiveness to holding zone meetings which board members and/or senior staff could attend to answer questions and provide updates on issues.
“The opportunity for most councillors to get involved in the policy making at annual conferences is at best minimal,” Mr Bennett wrote.
“Zone meetings would allow more opportunity for that input that could be based on the relevant issue and not a ‘party political broadcast.’”
Cr Kirk said much of the discussion surrounded the membership fee increase.
“They said it was because some councils had pulled out,” he told the meeting.
“Our argument was that this shouldn’t be to the detriment of others.”
After some debate, councillors decided to renew the membership for 12 months but then review its value for money. This would take into account the services provided through the new joint organisation of councils, how LGNSW controlled its costs (similar to a rate cap) and its response to the council’s initiative to hold zone meetings for rural councils.
Goulburn Mulwaree will call for the zone meetings at the LGNSW conference to be held at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency from December 4 to 6. Cr Kirk, Deputy Mayor Alf Walker and Cr Margaret O’Neill will attend the event as voting delegates. The total cost to send them is estimated at $7500.