Lithgow City Council to keep tighter rein on funds as costs mount

LIthgow City Council will keep a tighter rein on its finances as costs continue to mount and may apply for  a special rate increase.

For the month ending December 31, council’s financial reserves fell by $1.5 million to $25.9 million – with $793,274 available at the bank.

Council will be facing another bill of $150,000 for a byelection in April.

“It’s totally unneccesary, but we will stick with it and do what we can,” mayor Stephen Lesslie said.

“Wage increases and cost of goods apply to councils just as much as other businesses.

“We’re allowed a 1.5 per cent rate increase which is close to half the rate of inflation.

“There’s a limit to what we can do with our budget allocations.”

Cr Lesslie said staff would evaluate issues as they were presented, including requests to fix roads or grade dirt roads.

As priorities changed it meant some things were left wanting.

“When we go through the budget, we will consider a special rate variation,” he said.

“Councils are being held back by the rate pegging process and fit for the future requirements.”

Councillor Lesslie said as well as costs for the byelection, there were bills from September’s election and extra costs to complete financial reports for the state government.

At last week’s meeting councillors approved an extra $110,000 so financial reports could be completed.

Cr Lesslie said there was were also costs of up to $350,000 relating to terminating the contract of  the former general manager Roger Bailey.

“It’s once you add up the cost of consultants to fill the vacancy, the cost of elevating people in council to higher acting positions and the costs of the FairWork Commission determination.”

Former mayor Cr Maree Statham said with two positions vacant on council, Lithgow had no choice but to hold a byelection.

She accused the mayor of wanting to see a countback to fill the positions because one of them would be a Labor Party member.

Cr Statham called for an end to partisan politics so councillors could do what’s best to improve the city’s finances and work for it.

“I would like to see a cohesive council and get rid of the political rubbish,” she said.

Cr Statham said she believed it would take time to restore the city’s finances, “we’ve been elected by the public to promote and progress Lithgow.”