Back on October 1 we published a story titled ‘Does the Coffs City Council have healthy financials’? by Rob Steurmann. See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/does-the-coffs-city-council-have-healthy-financials/
This is the second part of that article and it is based on information from from a data base of details released to the public on Tuesday 24 September this year by the Office of Local Government (OLG).
By Rob Steurmann
Coffs Harbour City Council is one of seven councils classified by the Office of Local Government (OLG) as part of Group 5 for comparison purposes. Other councils in group 5 include Wollongong (W), Shoalhaven (S), Mid North Coast (MNC), Port Macquarie Hastings (PMH), Newcastle (N) and Lake Macquarie (LM).
These areas are deemed by OLG to be similar in many respects and suitable for comparison.
For some time OLG has been trying to get a realistic way to measure performance of the council across the state. As part of a long term plan OLG introduced a set of ratios to be used to rate the councils.
In September 2019 it released a data base of information to permit residents to compare their council to like councils (linked above in the introduction to this story).
The tables below are a snapshot of some of the findings.
Before looking at the tables there are some major facts to consider though.
- Unemployment in our Local Government Area (LGA) is 8.1% (state average 5.6%). Youth unemployment is the second highest in Australia. See; https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/5934244/one-in-four-of-our-young-people-are-unemployed/
- Average income per (adult) resident in our LGA is $46,577
- On the socio-economic barometer our LGA came in 61st from the bottom (128).
- The claim we are a community with a high percent of people over 60 is not necessarily true. Our LGA at 27.7% has nowhere near the highest proportion of older residents.
The OLG information is presented in a revised format below to allow easier comparison across the group. It is set out in a series of related areas;
- Operating result 2017/ 2018
- Population – and ratio of councillor to resident
- Socio factors – average income, unemployment level and % of residents over 60
- Rates (on average) paid over the last three years and includes the domestic waste charges
- Sources of income – grants and contributions broken up to show operating and capital components, and the balance called own funding by the OLG.
- Some expense items – borrowing expenses, backlog in infra structure, expenses of Councillors and the GM salary.
The quoted figures are from the OLG data and are presented in order that readers can determine an opinion free from external comment.
|Operating Result 2017/18||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephens||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|figures are in 000s||5,579||7,681||17,875||4,530||7,544||5,075||12,876||27,780||see note||9567||n/a-|
Note; These figures reveal nearly every council in group 5 runs at a profit and in Coffs Harbour this differs from the figure published in the 2017/ 2018 accounts (Loss of $383,000). Port Stephens result is a negative $93.00 for the year.
|Demographics||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephens||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|average income in $||46577||59856||47246||45338||49336||58859||57506||48609||53643||53053||–|
|unemployment level %||8.1||4.6||9.4||5||3.3||5.9||5.5||4.4||5.6||5.5||5.6|
|60 and over %||27.7||25.5||33.5||37.9||34||20.6||26.3||31.9||29.4||27.8||21.0|
***Note: Maitland has not been included – later figures are for councils listed
|Socio-economic||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephens||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|socio-economic place (rated out of 128)||61||94||50||20||68||96||89||60||70||68.5||n/a|
|Average Rates in $||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephen||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|year 2015/ 2016||1070||1282||933||0||1066||1135||1194||1276||946||n/a|
|year 2016/ 2017||1129||1367||965||0||1074||1219||1257||1313||968||n/a|
|% increase in last year||3.3||2.3||14.6||new council||2.3||6.7||5.1||1.3||2.1||2.1|
|domestic waste (average) in $||593||419||357||366||368||330||431||332||410||410||note|
Note; Port Stephens is a few cents short of group 5 average.
|Income sources||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephen||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|Total grants and contributions (g & c) %||26.9||22.9||19.2||23.6||34||14||32||28.8||22||25||31|
|g & c for ongoing operations %||8||10||8||14||8||6||22||15||10||n/a||11|
|g & c for capital works %||19||13||11||10||26||8||10||14||12||n/a||20|
|% of own Source||73.2||77.1||80.8||76.4||66||86||68.3||71.2||78.1||75||65|
|% of income from rates||45.5||61||49||53||43||51||55||45||42||n/a||45|
|% difference – this is user charges and other||27.7||16.1||31.8||23.4||23||35||13.3||26||36||n/a||24|
Notes; OLG figures do not identify loans as a separate item – it is assumed it is under ‘other’. Interestingly readers can gauge the extent of the loans by referring to borrowing expenses below.
There is a typing mistake in the report – the report says % of own source income 65% but when the figures are added up it is 69% This is the real figure (100 – 31 for grants is 69)
|Selected Expense items||Coffs -Harbour||Wollon- gong||Shoal-haven||Mid- Coast||Port MH||Newc-astle||Lake Macq||Tweed||Port Stephen||Group 5 aver||State aver|
|Councillor ratio to resident one to||8389||16395||7924||8406||9045||12489||15644||1351||7174||10480|
|Borrowing costs %||6||1||2||6||2||1||3||1.4||1||3.8|
|Backlog in infrastructure||0 *||5.5||3.2||8.8||5.6||11||2.4|
|Admin per capita 443 state||529.18||153.67||142.98||323.58||64.91||350.74||70.94||221||377||260.93|
|Councillors fees and costs 000s||212||482||294||198||213||452||476||181||234||291|
SO WHAT DOES SOME OF THIS MEAN?
Some of these comparison figures stand up well of that there is no doubt.
Nevertheless readers might be interested to learn that Coffs Harbour City Council has told the OLG that judging by the Tables above it has * no infrastructure backlog.
No roads needed improvement at the time of their report, or bridges, or footpaths or other amenities apparently.
Everything infrastructure-wise was, and is, ‘up to scratch’?
I suspect that may raise an eye brow or two among rate payers?
The Council this week placed second in the NSW Local Government Association’s Bluett Award for being a ‘progressive’ council. In its 53 page submission council lists some admirable achievements.
But some claims would also seem to be arguable too.
See Council’s 53 page Bluett Award submission here; https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Your-Council/Documents/CHCC_ARB_Award201819%20(002)%20-%20FINAL.pdf
One omission in this award submission in my opinion was waste management as a cost to ratepayers.
Maybe that was left out because it is the highest in Group 5 at $593 P.A. per ratepayer and the next closest in the Group is $419 P.A. per ratepayer?
And that is without a bulky goods collection anymore too of course.
Rob Steurmann is a retired forensic auditor living in Coffs Harbour who previously worked for the Federal Government.