Picture courtesy The Mercury.
Former Mayor Peter Coad, along with former Councillors and local ratepayers have written to the Minister for Local Government, Nic Street MP asking the Minister to immediately appoint an Administrator to the Huon Valley Council.
Mr Coad said “The complete failure of due process at the 15 June 2022 Special Meeting over the 2022/2023 budget and the failure to address the Long Term Financial Plan is a demonstration this Council continues to display ongoing dysfunction.”
“The previous Council had employee costs around 10 million dollars. The current dysfunctional Council plans to increase employee costs to some 16.2 million dollars with a forecast general rate income of some 17 million dollars. This means the employee costs are almost on par with rate income which is out of control”, said Mr Coad. Also the dysfunction continues with the Code of Conduct Panel into the flawed GM recruitment process with Acting Mayor Doyle and Councillor Newell being issued a caution for their part to play in the GM recruitment.
“Given the ongoing community and staff concerns over the conflicted appointment of Jason Browne, a mere caution raises more questions than answers. If the Code of Conduct Panel issued suspensions, then the Council would have insufficient Councillors to function at all.” said Mr Coad.
At the 15 June 2022 Special Meeting of Council, the General Manager recommended a general rate increase of 8 percent per year for the next four years, which is a 36 percent compounded increase over the four years. At the last-minute Council rejected the 8 percent and instead adopted a 5 percent increase for 2022/2023.
Council is now facing very huge financial deficit, in excess of 2 million dollars.
“Employee costs approved in the Long Term Financial Plan in 2016 were $11.1 million for 2022/2023. The GM budget proposed for 2022/23 for employee costs is now $16.2 million – a whopping $5.1 million increase. This is simply not sustainable,” said Mr Coad. Kingborough Council by comparison, with almost twice the population as the Huon, have employee costs of $16.7 million and a rate income of $33.7 million.
“Service charges have also been increased to support the General Managers escalating employee costs and meanwhile the road network is also nearing total collapse.
“In appointing an Administrator, it is recommended the Auditor General be requested to conduct, a full and complete audit of all the costs centres and operations of the Huon Valley Council and provide a report and recommendations to the newly elected Council in October 2022. “The final report should be made public and made available to all intending candidates for the October Council elections,” said Mr Coad.
Mr Coad said “should the Minister be challenged with the appointment of an Administrator which is subject to legislative considerations, then at the very least the Minister should enact a performance improvement direction to Council under section 214L of the Local Government Act 1993. “The alternative is to do nothing, but the risks of allowing a dysfunctional Council to operate through to October 2022, will only place an incoming inexperienced Council in a position such that the chaos can only continue at an unsustainable expense to ratepayers. “This all comes at a time when ratepayers are facing unprecedented harsh economic times with escalating costs of living. Governments should not hide under the legislation that protects dysfunctional and possibly corrupt Councils that burden communities with costs that are unstainable.
“The Minister is requested to suspend all Councillors and appoint an Administrator before what is already an out-of-control situation becomes much worse.” said Mr Coad.