Robert Hunt

Condobolin Retirement Village taking new residents

Consultant Patrick Herd, Lachlan Shire General Manager Robert Hunt, RSL LifeCare Deputy Chief Executive Carolyn Kwok and Mayor John Medcalf. MB

By Melissa Blewitt

The Condobolin Retirement Village will take new residents during the transition phase between RSL LifeCare, Whiddon and Lachlan Shire Council (LSC).

RSL LifeCare Deputy Chief Executive Carolyn Kwok gave assurances that the organisation would be taking new residents at the facility at two public meetings held last Tuesday.

She also said RSL LifeCare along with Whiddon, would facilitate a plan to help local families, who had to source appropriate care for their loved ones in another location during the negotiation process, to find a place in the Condobolin Retirement Village, if that is what they wanted.

Consultant Patrick Herd gave an overview of what had led to this point and what stage the process was up to now.

“After the community meeting in May, the Council then launched a formal expressions of interest process,” he stated.

“We then contacted over 20 aged care organisations in and around the NSW region. Seven organisations showed interest and some visited the site for inspection.

“From that two lodged formal expressions of interest and LSC voted to accept the proposal from RSL LifeCare.”

Ms Kwok said RSL LifeCare had 27 nursing homes throughout the state and the ACT.

“We look after around 3,500 people and the majority of those are in country NSW,” she said.

“Our smallest facility is in Eden (27 beds) and our biggest is Narrabeen (800 beds).

“We are committed to being part of the Condobolin community. We have a policy of dealing locally if at all possible.

“Not much will change at Condobolin as all contracts between residents and the Whiddon Group will transfer over to us. Visiting doctors will also remain the same.”

Retention of staff was a more complicated matter, as LSC and Whiddon had to resolve their issues before contracts could be moved across to RSL LifeCare.  “We all want what is in the best interest of the community,” Ms Kwok said.

Lachlan Shire rate rise approved by IPART

By Melissa Blewitt

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has approved Lachlan Shire Council’s (LSC) application for a special rate variation of 32.31 per cent.

The rate rise will happen over the next four years.

LSC applied for an increase of 6.8 per cent in 2016-17 and 7.4 per cent in each of the next three years, 2017-18 to 2019-20, including the rate peg, to be retained permanently in the rate base.

The rate increase was seen as an imperative part of Council’s bid to ‘stand alone’, and help them meet several financial, infrastructure and efficiency targets.

“Council is very pleased that its submission has been approved in full as the increase is essential for Council to meet the Fit for the Future targets set by the NSW Government and allows Lachlan Shire Council to be a stand-alone Council in the future,” LSC General Manager Robert Hunt said.

“Council received great community support for its Keep Lachlan Local campaign and for the special rate variation application and these two factors proved the difference in Lachlan Shire Council either remaining autonomous or being merged, as was the case recently with many other councils across the state.

“On behalf of Council I can assure you that the increased funds raised from the special rate variation ($260,000 in 2016/17) will see an increase in maintenance and construction throughout the Shire over the coming years.”

“Based on Lachlan Shire Council’s application, in 2016-17 the average residential rate would increase by $31, the average business rate by $35, and the average farmland rate by $182,” IPART Chairman Peter Boxall said.

Dr Boxall said the council’s application was assessed against the NSW Government’s published criteria. All submissions received from ratepayers, community groups and other stakeholders were also considered.

“Lachlan Shire Council was able to meet the criteria for approval of the special variation by demonstrating a clear need for the additional revenue, and that it is taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs,” he explained.

In approving the council’s application, IPART has imposed conditions requiring the additional income be used for the purposes outlined in the application, and that the council report to the community, in its Annual Report each year until 2025-26, on the outcomes achieved.

 

 

Lachlan Shire letter to residents of the Condobolin Retirement Village

Lachlan Shire and Whiddon end partnership

Negotiations for two year Village lease extension reach breaking point

By Melissa Blewitt

The partnership between Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) and The Whiddon Group is coming to an end.

Negotiations between the two, for the extension of a two-year lease agreement at the Condobolin Retirement Village have broken down.

In a letter obtained by The Condobolin Argus, The Whiddon Group, states “Given the instability, unnecessary angst caused for residents and employees, and delays we have experienced working with the LSC, Whiddon is no longer prepared to operate the Condobolin Service in partnership with the LSC.”

In response, LSC General Manager, Robert Hunt, said he believed The Whiddon Group was using “very heavy-handed tactics” in a bid to force Council into effectively gifting the facility to it.

“Whiddon has indicated they want to terminate their partnership with LSC,” he said.

“They have cited an article published in The Lachlander, as one of the main reasons for ending the agreement.

“We have been negotiating with Whiddon for a lengthy amount of time and accept they no longer want to operate the Condobolin Retirement Village.

“LSC has done everything in its power to conduct transparent and honest negotiations, and it seems Whiddon is not prepared to do the same.”

The agreement with Whiddon will come to an end on 30 June.

A letter which has been distributed by The Whiddon Group to residents, staff and the community, “flies in the face” of the current agreement, according to Mr Hunt.

“It was prepared without any consultation with LSC, and will cause nothing but unnecessary anguish, fear and stress to residents, families, staff and the community,” he said.

“It also contains statements which are inaccurate and misrepresent Council’s communication with Whiddon.

“LSC had been, as recently as Tuesday, 18 April, in talks with Whiddon.

“The letter makes no mention of the significant financial contribution Council has made to capital improvements at the facility.”

Mr Hunt explained the land on which the Retirement Village sits, cannot be sold, until it is reclassified from community land to operational land and this would take several months.

“Council cannot sell or transfer the [Village] land to anyone at this time,” he said.

LSC will decide at today’s Council Meeting whether it will call for Expressions of Interest, to engage another operator for the facility.

“We want to ensure a smooth transition of arrangements for the continuing care and welfare of the residents in particular,” Mr Hunt said.

New home to attract Shire staff

8 McGregor Street, one of the older and smaller homes to be sold to purchase better quality homes for staff.

 

By Melissa Blewitt

 

Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) has purchased an executive home to be rented by its General Manager, Robert Hunt.

A decision to purchase the home was made after Councillors decided to sell two of LSC’s other older residential properties to offset the cost of the upgraded dwelling.

Councillors, at an Extraordinary  Meeting held on the 3rd February, voted largely in favour of purchasing the residence, with Manwaring, Scott, Ridley, Nelson, Hall, Phillips and Frankel voting for the motion, while Brady and Saunders voted against.

Mr Hunt will pay full market rent back to Council, and the decision to purchase was seen as a way of enhancing Council’s prospects of retaining and attracting future senior staff to the Shire.

LSC was advised in a report by Rural Recruitment Consultant Terrey Kiss with Blackadder Associates, that “reality must be faced and it should be understood that Local Government in the current era is different to that of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Staff are not willing to relocate to rural areas for career advancement.”

The report went on to say, “Potential applicants will not wish to lower their living standards to relocate, nor will they want to purchase or build in a country town in the early stages of employment.

“Council should consider building modern residences for the staff they are wishing to recruit. Rental is a matter of negotiation, however, it should be subsidised to a certain degree.”

The report also urged LSC to ensure they provided a competitive-plus salary component, and more attractive ancillary benefits, such as performance bonuses and vehicle usage.

Providing modern accommodation for staff forms part of many NSW Council’s employment practices.

For instance, at Tenterfield Shire Council, they recently offered an attractive four-bedroom residence with a large yard at a highly subsidised rental, as part of their employment package for the General Manager’s position. A Toyota Prado vehicle was also part of the deal.

LSC Mayor John Medcalf said he understood there may be some concern in the community about purchasing residential properties for use by staff, however many other rural councils provide residential properties for senior staff and it was imperative that LSC was able to compete with those other councils in attracting and retaining experienced and qualified professional staff.

Rates to rise with special variation

• Rate comparison for 2015/16. Cont

Rates in the Lachlan Shire look set to rise after Council began the community consultative process last week. Three community meetings were held in Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin and Tottenham. The Council outlined their application for a special rate variation, which will be put to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) by the end of this month. Council is seeking a 32.31 per cent rate rise over the next four years, which would see around $1 million returned to the bottom line. The rate increase is seen as an imperative part of Council’s bid to ‘stand alone’.

By Melissa Blewitt

Rates will rise in the Lachlan Shire if an application for a special variation is approved by the Independent Regulatory and Pricing Tribunal (IPART).

A proposed 32.31 per cent rate increase over four years will see Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) attempt to meet several financial, infrastructure and efficiency targets.

According to LSC General Manager Robert Hunt for LSC to become ‘Fit for the Future’ hard decisions had to be made.

“Following a thorough review of our operations, we reduced expenditure, cut staff, raised some user fees and charges, looked at increasing productivity, borrowed money, reviewed service levels and proposed a rate increase of 32.31 per cent to be staged over four years,” he said.

“LSC then met all the targets with the exception of scale and capacity which IPART stated was due to our population being under 10,000, however the Government believes some Councils do have scale and capacity and LSC is awaiting advice on this.”

LSC has twice previously engaged Micromex Pty Ltd to independently survey 250 community members on whether they would support a 33 per cent rate increase to enable LSC to be financially fit for the future and the majority of those surveyed indicated they would support a rate increase, Mr Hunt added.

“LSC is now making an application to IPART to approve a 32.31% increase over 4 years and part of that application process is to ensure the community is aware of the proposed rate increase and its financial impacts on residents,” he said.

“Of the 32.31 per cent increase, 9.31 per cent is represented by rate peg increases which would normally be payable over the four year period. LSC is basically seeking a five per cent per annum increase above the rate peg increase in each of the four years and this increase is to remain permanent.

“The usual rate peg increases will then resume in 2020/21.”

This means the cumulative impact on average residential rates at the end of the four year period will be $2.80 per week or $145 per annum.

For Non Urban Residential Rates it will be a cumulative increase of $3.54 per week or $184 per annum.

Businesses will be looking at $3.20 per week extra, or $166 per annum.

Farmland rates will increase $16.63 per week or $865 per annum.

Mr Hunt said the additional rate income would help LSC in maintaining council assets.

“LSC will allocate the additional rate income to increasing maintenance of council assets such as buildings and roads and renewal of infrastructure,” he said.

“This will ensure we attain and continue to meet the Government’s performance targets in relation to the level of maintenance and asset renewal.”

“Council also has a hardship policy should any ratepayer find it difficult to pay their rates and residents should contact Council’s Chief financial Officer Mr John Chapman for a confidential discussion” he added.

LSC met with interested community members at a series of public meetings at Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin and Tottenham.

 

Danger Zone

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

: IPART’s map of part of the state, showing ‘fit’ councils in green and ‘unfit’ councils in orange. The blue would be considered ‘fit’ with a merger process. More on IPART’s decision plus an editorial on page 4. Cont

By Melissa Blewitt

 

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

The report, released by the State Government last Tuesday, found Lachlan Shire “unfit” due to a forecast declining population over the next 20 years.

Lachlan Shire Council’s Fit for the Future proposal was one of 87 out of 139 proposals assessed to be unfit, with only three of 12 councils in the central west found fit to stand alone.

IPART has suggested a merger with Parkes would be the most beneficial course of action, but Lachlan Shire Council’s preference is to remain a stand alone Council within a Joint Organisation (JO).

Parkes failed to satisfy one crucial criterion – efficiency – but was still deemed “fit” by the IPART report.

Lachlan failed to meet the scale and capacity criteria (population under 10,000), but satisfied the financial criteria overall including sustainability, infrastructure and service management.

Lachlan’s population stands at 6,700 and is predicted by the NSW Department of Planning to fall to 5,500 by 2031. If merged with Parkes, the new entity would have a projected population of 21,000 by 2031.

According to General Manager Robert Hunt, Council is committed to standing alone.

“Lachlan Shire only fails to meet one criterion and that is scale and capacity. Councils had not been told beforehand that there was a minimum population of 10,000 which had to be met and that has been very disappointing after all the work that went into the submission,” he said.

Lachlan’s TCorp Financial Sustainability Rating (FSR) was assessed as moderate and they were given a negative outlook.

“This [the FSR] was completed a few years ago and the negative outlook is based on projections – we have since made many changes and we will be sustainable after the rate increase next year and we will have a positive outlook based on this.”

Mr Hunt added that after a discussion with Parkes General Manager, Kent Boyd, both Councils preferred to stand alone however, further meetings with neighbouring councils will be held.

In the meantime an independent telephone survey of residents will also be undertaken by Micromex Pty Ltd to see if ratepayers want to take the $15m incentive on offer to the merged entity by the State Government or remain an independent Council.

Council has until 18 November to respond to the findings.

 

 

New General Manager for Lachlan

Lachlan Shire Council will soon have a permanent General Manager in place with the appointment of former Liverpool Plains Shire Council General Manager, Robert Hunt.

• The new General Manager of Lachlan Shire Council, Robert Hunt. Contributed

By Lara Pearce

Lachlan Shire Council will soon have a permanent General Manager with the appointment of former General Manager of Liverpool Plains Shire Council, Robert Hunt.

The Mayor announced the appointment today, Monday 23 March, following an interview last Friday.

Mr Hunt will commence in his new role on Friday 10 April.

 

 

More details to follow in this Wednesday’s Argus.

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