I attended the extraordinary council meeting Tuesday – really an opportunity for Councillors to vote on an application for a rate increase.
The rate rise is a result of a simple problem – insufficient revenue to cover the costs of running the business of maintaining and sustaining our LGA.
There are only two ways to resolve this problem, as with all business – increase revenue and/or decrease costs.
Our council has set about reducing costs with a concerted effort to terminate multiple employees.
Overtly, this has resulted in the obvious lack of maintenance in such areas as parks and gardens – the town is a ratty mess and presents a poor face to outsiders coming in.
Covertly, we don’t know how many other employees they have removed from the books – or how this is impacting on the infrastructure and functioning of the LGA’s assets.
For the past four years, council has not zoned any new land as commercial – to allow the creation and expansion of our business base. By their own admission, there is one parcel of land available for commercial development.
This situation has not changed since the Chamber of Commerce met with Council over three years ago and asked the same question.
They cannot give an explanation as to why there has not been any new commercial land availability since, nor when there will be any.
It is a fundamental truth that the ratepayer base in this LGA is not large enough to produce the revenue we need. We need population growth.
Whilst residential tracts of land are owned by developers who are ready to develop, they simply will not unless parallel commercial land becomes available so that new business and commercial enterprise can establish in the Lithgow region.
This is not and cannot happen without proper commercial zoning by council, and there is none.
The aggressive attitude to Councillors over the intended rate rise misses the mark – they are elected representatives, paid very little to perform their role, and they rely on the expertise of the managers employed by our council - whose skills, qualifications and experience are used to guide the councillors to the best decisions for the region.
These people are well compensated for their roles. It is time to question those people who sit at the head of our council and ask why they have consistently failed to produce a coherent strategic plan to deal with these issues.
This is not a slur on the employees who are at the front line of council – they work hard for their wages and should be congratulated for the effort they put in.
Councillor Ring was right when he said that council are very poor communicators.
If the Councillors are genuine in their intent to see our LGA escape the dire financial position we find ourselves in they need to ask if they have the right staff managing the business of council – because as a rate payer I am rapidly losing confidence in them at this point.
I think we all deserve better.