The article yesterday in CCO by Sandra Duncan might well be a ‘literary masterpiece’ but it is a work of fiction nevertheless.
By Rob Steurmann
Her article is one person’s belief of the situation and their attempt to influence others.
Some “facts” put forward lead the reader to interpret them in a way so as to get a certain outcome. There is bias in this approach and it is dangerous.
Yes both the State and Federal Governments did suggest one way out for Councils and their ratepayers could include grants to do local projects. That much is true. Yet I seem to recall the words “for roads, bridges and footpaths” being central parts of the proposal.
Sandra conveniently left part that out. Perhaps it did not suit her reality?
Our Council has no arrears in the area of bridges and roads. It told the Office of Local Government so last year no less and has been at pains in recent times to make this clear. A published NSW local government survey by the NRMA at the beginning of last year is one example where our council made such a claim.
Let us also not forget the campaign to secure a variation in rate levels had, as the unpinning base, a CHCC arrears in maintenance of some $70 M.
A 4% increase in rates granted in 2013 was supposed to address this issue.
Then by 2017 the arrears had vanished!
This is remarkable. To think after three years and what on paper was a $12m rate increase could “retire” the arrears! So there you have it and council went from strength to strength.
Our financials are so good that two years later in 2019 council made plans to build an entertainment, library, art gallery space. In part it would be financed by savings of some $9.6m. This is truly remarkable again.
Such a small increase in the rates apparently is sufficient to give a turnaround of $67.6m overall.
As all local residents would no doubt know the corporate ‘head hunters’ were so impressed by this that they rushed to Coffs Harbour eager to snap up our ‘financial wizards’ in Council.
Lucky for us our ‘financial wizards’ remained. They were unmoved by a chance of worldwide fame. They were committed to building new council administration facilities. You know the ones that were not mentioned in any volume until about a year ago.
In this new arena they will continue to perform and with the help of the other cultural activities thousands of visitors will flock to our city according to Sandra.
If only it was true.
A thousand jobs will also be created according to Ms Duncan. Or perhaps not. It’s a remarkably nice round figure after all.
However, when the work is over the workers will return to where they came from. The unemployment level will change but not by much.
Covid 19 will trigger changes in the way things we do things in the future. It could well cause a rethink and perhaps the electronic library will emerge. predominant as a result
We should not get carried away by Sandra Duncan’s dream. Once the construction starts it will be at least three years before there will be any noticeable increase in tourist traffic to come to the new building. If any comes that is.
In that time the council may well be broke, unable to service the debt or the community.
Is this what you want Sandra?
Rob Steurmann is a retired forensic auditor who previously worked in that role for the federal government. Rob regularly analyses Council finances here at CCO