Fit for the Future

Lachlan survives to fight another day

By Melissa Blewitt

Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) has survived the second phase of the State Government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ process.

They have been spared a forced amalgamation, for now.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole and NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that 152 NSW Councils will be cut back to 112 last Friday.

The number of regional councils will be reduced from 109 to 87.

Lachlan, Bland, Parkes and Forbes will stand alone, however, Orange, Blayney and Cabonne along with Bathurst and Oberon Councils were not so fortunate, all facing a merger process.

LSC now has the opportunity to revise and resubmit its Fit for the Future proposal to be re-assessed and declared fit in 2016.

Mayor of Lachlan Shire Council (LSC), Councillor John Medcalf has welcomed the announcement that LSC will remain as a stand-alone Council following the announcement by the NSW Premier, on the future of local government in NSW.

“The outcome, while very pleasing, does not mean LSC is out of the woods just yet as more work needs to be undertaken with regard to scale and capacity. LSC along with all other “unfit” councils will be reassessed again in September next year by the NSW Government following the introduction of Joint Organisations of Councils,” he said.

“However I am confident we have the staff to get us “Fit for The Future” in all aspects and with the continued support of the community we can remain an independent financially sustainable Council providing new and expanded services that meet the needs of the community.

“I would like to thank our Local State Member, Kevin Humphries for his support during this process and for listening to our concerns. Thank you also to members of the Shire community who strongly displayed their desire for LSC to remain as a stand-alone Council during this long and protracted reform process,” he said.

“Importantly, on behalf of fellow Councillors, I thank LSC staff who have worked tirelessly over many long hours to achieve this successful outcome,” Mr Medcalf concluded.

The merger proposals announced, will now go forward to the Chief Executive Officer of Local Government who will conduct public inquiries and then refer their recommendations on to the Boundaries Commission for final determination. Due to the boundary review process, the local government elections scheduled for September 2016, will now be pushed back to March 2017.

Committed to Lachlan-Staff forego $2 million in benefits to ‘Keep Lachlan Local’

Robert Hunt, General Manager of Lachlan Shire, is committed to keeping Lachlan Shire from amalgamation.

Lachlan shire Mayor, John Medcalf,  is standing up for the Lachlan Shire to ‘stand alone’ into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Melissa Blewitt

Lachlan Shire Council staff have chosen to forego $2 million in benefits in a bid to keep Lachlan local.

Employees agreed to forego a significant benefit in their Enterprise Agreement, worth $2 million over eight years, in a final attempt to demonstrate to the State Government that the Lachlan Shire should stand alone.

In the recent Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) report LSC was deemed not “fit for the future” due to scale and capacity as it has a projected population of less than 10,000.

This is despite LSC meeting the various other financial, infrastructure and efficiency criteria.

The Report also questioned Council’s ability to provide cost effective services with such a small population.

“Council staff should be congratulated on making this decision to ensure LSC does provide cost effective services and to enable additional funding from these savings to be allocated to new infrastructure for the benefit of the community,” Mayor John Medcalf said.

“Staff have supported this reduction in working conditions knowing that in a recent independent community survey over 68 per cent of the community supported a 33 per cent rate rise over four years, commencing next financial year.

“This clearly demonstrates to the NSW Minister for Local Government the commitment and dedication that local people have to keeping “Lachlan Local” and not merging with another council area.

“LSC should not be compared to city or regional centres. We are a rural and remote Local Government area servicing a highly productive agricultural region and providing services to our communities above and beyond what is usually expected of a council, including maintenance of the largest road network of any council in NSW, a mobile long day care service to remote villages, medical centre facilities, a retirement village/nursing home, indoor sports centre and home and community care services.

“Council provides these services as this is what our locals require to ensure their needs, or the needs of their family, are met.”

Council will formulate a response to the IPART report findings and submit that response to the Office of Local Government on Wednesday, 18 November. LSC expects a final decision from the NSW State Government before Christmas.

Rifts over rate rises

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

By Lara Pearce

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

Among the most contentious were the water charges, which have already risen from $0.70/kl for the first 450kl in 2005/06 to $2.03/kl in this financial year. Next year, they will be $2.30/kl for the first 600kl used.

The Council says that these fees are necessary to cover the ongoing maintenance costs, which are higher than many neighbouring Councils due to the aging infrastructure and the distances that pipelines have to cover, due to the large distances between Lachlan Shire’s towns.

It also cites the development of a new water treatment plant for Condobolin, which has been costed at $10 million. The Council expects that the NSW Government will contribute $5 million.

“If the State Government contributes more than 50% of the project then there will hopefully be a levelling of water charges,” said John Chapman, Council’s Chief Financial Officer.

Council staff also noted that they are considering introducing a charge on Condobolin’s truck wash so ratepayers would not have to fund this service.

Condobolin nursery owner, Gary Venables, said that by increasing fees, he believes the Council could end up losing money as people will reduce their water usage.

“I consider that Council are walking down a false economy path,” he said. “If they believe that people are going to pay those new fees, I am here to tell that they won’t.”

“I am in a position both privately and business-wise to see that first hand.”

Maxine Staniforth presented a petition from a large number of community members, expressing their concern over the proposed water rates.

Concerns over the tip charges were also expressed, with rural residents noting that they already pay an annual waste management fee and do not have a curb side collection service.

One resident proposed that Council should include a number of free visits to the tip within the annual fee.

Tightening the belt on Lachlan

By Lara Pearce

Lachlan Shire residents are being urged to attend community meetings to discuss the Council’s proposal to stand-alone amidst controversial plans to increase rates in the 2015/16 year.

The Council has less than two weeks left to finalise its proposal to the NSW Government outlining why it should remain a stand-alone Council. The ‘Fit for the Future’ report, which must be completed by all local councils in NSW, is due on 30 June.

The Lachlan Shire Council is holding public meetings in Tottenham, Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo. Condobolin’s meeting is scheduled to take place tonight, Wednesday 17 June, at 6pm at the Council Chambers.

The Mayor, Des Manwaring, is urging residents to have their say.

“The process is not a matter of tick and flick or what position the Council or the community wants to take,” he said. “It is up to the Council and the residents of Lachlan to prove we are ‘Fit for the Future’ by 2020 and we are going to have to make changes to remain a stand-alone Council.”

Among the changes flagged by Council are increases to water and sewerage rates. This is in spite of recent community calls to reduce water rates, which have almost tripled in ten years.

Water usage charges for residential users are set to increase from $2.03/kl to $2.20/kl for the first 450kl and from $3.05/kl to $3.30/kl after that starting from 1 July.

Water access charges would also increase by 7% plus $25, while the annual sewerage charges are proposed to increase by 2.5% plus $75.

Council has also announced it is planning on applying for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) allowing it to increase rates by 5% in addition  to the standard rate peg increase of 2.4% for four consecutive years, starting from 1 July 2016.

Other revenue-raisers include: charges for the use of tips and waste facilities; modest increases to rates for Domestic Waste Management of around 2.5%; and the closure of Albert, Fifield and Derriwong tips, to be replaced with a kerbside collection service.

The Council has also indicated that it will not be filling some positions which currently stand vacant.

The Independent Local Government Review Panel has recommended that Lachlan Shire merge with Parkes Council in order to become more economically sustainable – a suggestion which has met with widespread community backlash.

“Previous community consultation overwhelmingly wanted Lachlan to remain a stand-alone Council,” the Mayor noted.

“At these upcoming community meetings, input will assist in determining an appropriate response for ‘Fit for the Future’.”

Once the ‘Fit for the Future’ report is submitted, the NSW Government’s independent expert panel will review the submissions and make its final recommendations to the state government in a report by 16 October.

Premier Mike Baird will then make the final decision.

Former Parkes GM steps up for Lachlan

Veteran Council manager Alan McCormack has come out of retirement to take on the position of General Manager at the Lachlan Shire Council as of last Monday.

• Back in his old chair: The new Acting General Manager of Lachlan Shire Council, Alan McCormack, is returning to Condobolin after forty years. LP

By Lara Pearce

Veteran Council manager Alan McCormack has come out of retirement to take on the position of General Manager at the Lachlan Shire Council as of last Monday.

Mr McCormack says he is filling in while a permanent replacement is found, which is expected to take at least three months. His key focus during his time here, he says, will be Council’s ‘Fit for the Future’ report.

Former General Mananger Liz Collyer resigned from her position effective from 8 January after two years in the job. Ms Collyer has taken up a position as Director of Corporate Services at Tweed Shire Council on the north coast of New South Wales, where she will start work next Tuesday.

Mr McCormack is an experienced General Manager, having served in the role at Parkes Shire Council for twenty-one years. Since retiring in 2010, he has taken up interim positions at Forbes, Blayney and Oberon Councils.

He is also no stranger to Condobolin, having worked as Deputy Shire Clerk (the pre-1990 term for Deputy General Manager) from 1972 until 1974. “And I’m back in the same office as I was then!” he said with a smile.

“The Mayor just approached me and asked if I would come over for a few months while they found someone,” Mr McCormack explained. He says the Council will soon begin the application process for a permanent General Manager.

As well as processing job applications, the returning Council manager is busy finalising preparations for the Australia Day celebrations, preparing for the Western Division Conference and working on the Council’s ‘Fit for the Future’ report.

“[The Australia Day celebrations] are huge, because we try to get out to all the towns in the Shire,” he explained. Events will include a breakfast and presentation ceremony at Memorial Park at 7:30am, followed by various celebrations in Lake Cargelligo, Tullibigeal, Tottenham and Fifield.

The Western Division of Councils is a collaboration between New South Wales’ western councils, which make up one third of the state. Condobolin will play host to their next meeting, bringing Councillors and Council staff from the far reaches of New South Wales to the area.

“It is a great opportunity to showcase the town,” Mr McCormack said.

The conference will be held at the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation.

However, the Fit for the Future report is chief among the new GM’s concerns. The report is due in to the Office of Local Government by 30 June this year, with huge implications for the future of local councils.

 

© 2010 Condobolin Argus - Design by Upside Down Websites