“Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!” Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 4
For some Councillors, and more than a few residents and ratepayers, the Bard’s words will have a certain degree of resonance as the current council, holding their last scheduled meeting tonight, has been one of the most controversial in the City’s history.
And yet that controversy could get far worse if tonight’s contentious agenda sees certain items passed on casting votes again.
We refer specifically to the proposal to raise a $50.265 million loan with Westpac for the CCS that Executive say needs to be drawn down by 14 August, interest rate and term ‘commercial in confidence, a proposal to sell the current council chambers based on two bids, commercial in confidence again even though one bid was publicised and recommended two weeks ago and a number of notices of motion pertaining to waste management and disposal.
The whole agenda reeks of Council Executive wanting to tie the hands of the next new council.
And that, in a nutshell, is why councillors must vote to at least defer the loan and chamber sale agenda items.
Consider the following;
- Council Executive intimated strongly a low rate TCorp loan for the CCS was extremely likely. It didn’t eventuate.
- Council Executive said the combined sale of four buildings would raise $20m. They failed to account for the three years lease and other associated transaction costs as part of that, meaning only around $10m at most would eventuate.
- Council Executive failed to tell residents the current construction certificate for the CCS runs out on 2 September and only covers ground and foundation works.
There could be many more we could add to this, not the least of which relate to waste management, associated and other legal case cost issues and deferred maintenance practices to mention but a few.
It is obvious to CCO that when everything is taken into account, including increased loan costs, the real cost of the CCS, increasingly a building that is more administrative than cultural, is going to be well north of $100m not the $81.5m that they keep quoting.
And herein is a key reason to defer the key agenda items mentioned above for the new council. Namely Council Executive Management’s obsessive need to hide many seemingly non-controversial matters as ‘commercial in confidence’ or similar.
This is not an Executive that likes scrutiny or being open. If they were senior bureaucrats in Canberra they would have to face up to Senate Estimates hearings.
But here we have apparently even had the GM criticise a Councillor for asking questions of staff at council meetings because supposedly it; ‘questions the professionalism of staff.’ This is in spite of the fact some are on salaries of between $200,000 and $360,000.
Accountability from the resident’s paid employees should be a bedrock of a democracy. Particularly at local government level.
Sadly accountability seems to be something the CHCC senior executive appears averse to.
The new Council needs to address that as a priority.
And in doing so they should also be the council that makes the decision on CCS loans and associated asset sales.
The current council should not bind the hands of the new council on major debt issues in their last scheduled meeting. Especially controversial ones. And also given that in normal times that council would have been voted in a year ago anyway.
And in regards to accountability the words of the great British philosopher, Thomas Paine, are particularly apt in regards to tonights last scheduled council meeting when considering the excess secrecy the executive has shrouded it in;
“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.” *
- Paine, Thomas. (1925) “The Life and Works of Thomas Paine“, ed. William M. Van der Weyde (New Rochelle, NY: Thomas Paine Historical Society), 6:97.