I am deeply concerned about the council's application for a special rate variation and I would like to comment as a former councillor and small business owner.
I have read the Goulburn Mulwaree Council report and the supporting material with serious concern. I have listened to the arguments put forward by the council and this appears to be nothing more than clever accounting deliberately designed to show an operational loss to support their application for a special rate variation. As Nina Dillon has shown, the council's application does not hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.
You only need to watch one episode of Utopia to understand how easy it is for governments to obtain expert reports that are custom designed to support the proposal of the day so I call on the council to release their terms of reference for the Morrison Low assessment report.
I served nine years as a councillor; I know how the organisation operates.
I know how councillors are briefed by staff and I know what it is like to be a part of the decision-making process.
For years, senior staff have proudly presented annual financial reports to councillors in which they boasted about the good job they were doing managing the council's finances.
How is it that the council can go from being declared 'fit for the future' to now predicting huge operational losses in such a short period of time?
If the special rate variation is approved, it will hurt the most vulnerable people in our community and regardless of how the council try to package up their proposal, it is nothing more than an opportunistic cash grab.
The anger and concern in the community cannot be underestimated. There are those in the legal profession and small business community who are aghast at what is being proposed.
I have clients who are legally aided who struggle to find enough money to put food on the table each week. These people are often more inclined to get on with life then to apply through the council's hardship policy for assistance so it's lazy for councillors to dismiss concerns about the impact the special rate variation will have on people by reference to such a policy because history shows a low take up rate of the policy compared to the portion of the population who fall within that lower end of the income category.
For the most part, businesses and ratepayers are more inclined to put their noses to the grindstone and work through the issues of the day rather than engage with local government but this proposal is so outrageous and so lacking in leadership that people need to ensure that their voices are heard.
Sam Rowland, Goulburn
While I am sure that many ratepayers are likely to be very unhappy over the rate increases recently announced by the council, you might also have some sympathy for the organisation.
This is because the council does not have control over the weather that caused significant damage to the roads, something cited as an unexpected cost. The council does have a responsibility to plan and that should take into consideration our increasingly erratic weather. The benefit of doing so means that money could be put aside for repairs to water damaged roads, and other weather-affected infrastructure.
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The council is required to have a climate plan that identifies the risks to their assets and to the community. The council is to be congratulated on the likes of planting along Auburn Street and forming the Community Climate Advisory Committee. Also for their excellent organic waste recycling facility, particularly as it reduces methane emissions.
It may be that the council is making great strides with its climate plans, but without their plan being visible on their website, it is hard to know. Ditto specifically it is hard to know what action has been taken to mitigate future climate impacts, and the risk of further unscheduled spending in the future.
A council that, together with the Chamber of Commerce and the community, is working to a plan to make Goulburn Mulwaree sustainable, as indeed Bega Valley is doing, would attract investment and create more jobs, while reducing the climate risk.
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