Monday, May 4, 2015

Fit For the Future Update

Fit For the Future Update

Many Shires across NSW are verging on financial non sustainability and the time has come to reckon with the facts.

For many years now, the ERA has been trying to get the ESC to confront a reality that they continue to ignore.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal  (IPART) has been engaged by NSW Government to assess whether ESC is Fit for the Future. IPART has written to the ERA inviting us to make a submission, and we are now asking the Eurobodalla ratepayers and residents for their views.

Some background beforehand:

On June 30th this year, the NSW government will be making a decision on what form the future ESC local government will take. If you are unaware of this, it is because our council has failed to engage the community early enough to bring residents and ratepayers with them on this important journey. Many other Shires, by contrast, have engaged early and actively with their affected communities to ensure that their residents are fully informed and involved in the process. 

By the 16th of October this year, the NSW Government, based on the assessment of Eurobodalla Council by IPART, will have made a decision about the financial viability and ongoing sustainability of the Eurobodalla Council as a local government entity.  

The conversation before June end, and October the 16th must NOT be just between IPART and Council staff and Councilors behind closed doors.

The ERA has been demanding a major external efficiency review for some years. A review that is open, transparent and above all honest. Council has lost the communities trust to honestly and critically review itself.

Currently, ESC has admitted that it will fail the long term IPART criteria fitness tests that relate to operating performance and own source revenue. IPART will propose in their report that if these benchmarks are not met within five years, then the ESC may not be viable.

Even if IPART grant approval of the 21% SRV application to the Council this month, the next increase application in three years’ time will have to be considerably higher for the council to reach its financial targets. That money will once again come from already burdened ratepayers who can ill afford these rate rises. We are nowhere near ‘Fit for the Future.’ 

Our ability to fund Infrastructure has been rated as poor. There is a real problem when Council are given $11 million to finish the Spine Road in early 2014 and the Council responds saying they may be able to start the project in the latter half of 2016!

There are, however, other ways of meeting these benchmarks. Council could dramatically reduce its 120 plus delivery operations to just a core number of programs – remember the good old days of Rates, Roads, and Rubbish?  This is what the Community told ESC via the Micro-mex community surveys not so long ago. 

On 16 October, there could be 4 possible verdicts that will change our local government:

  1. We remain a Shire in our own right but implement significant structural changes to ensure that we meet the benchmarks for sustainability. E.g.:    We could reduce the number of service delivery programs that now stand at over 120. (Should we really be showing people how to cook and walk, building worm farms, and learning how to ride a motor bike?)
  2.  We could dramatically reduce indoor staff numbers.

  3.  We merge all / part of Eurobodalla Shire with either / both Shoalhaven or Bega Valley Shire 

  4.  We enter into Joint Organization arrangements with neighboring Shires in an attempt to reduce operating costs -e.g. we could radically reduce costs by amalgamating many of our backroom services with other councils e.g. IT services.

The community need Eurobodalla Shire Council to lead the discussion on this. The ERA are listening, writing and organizing, but nobody at ESC seems to be interested, unless you read a weak article about the subject published by the Bay Post.

Surely, by now, the Mayor and Council should be organizing community meetings. The three casual drop in sessions at local markets and malls are not public consultation and Council is not taking any public submissions on the matter.

There is to be a meeting on May the 9th in the Bay to discuss many of these issues, organized by a group of concerned Batemans Bay citizens. The ERA will be attending to listen to people’s views.

However let us have your comments on WHAT YOU WANT to happen to your council ASAP and we will include them in our Submission to IPART. This has to be completed by the third week of May.

Sincerely the ERA team


  1. Rates, roads and rubbish sounds good to me. How many work in the palace at Moruya? How many cars get driven home each night? How many claim they can’t afford to pay rates? Can council recover the money owed when the property is sold? We have just had the annual oyster festival? How much did council put in? When a grave is needed we see one digger, private(?), and 3 council men watching..........
    Our only way to survive, and I hope we do, is to CUT COSTS. We don’t want a bigger council, we want a better one.

    Submitted to the ERA by email by R.

  2. Well there is one thing sure, the council should live on what income it has ,even though it's more than rate payers think it should have.
    No 1 - cut council staff by at least 25% and stop the use of council cars for use after working hours , bring council into reality of a business rather than a government jobs to help implement. Council belong to the people so they should tell them what to do.

    Submitted to the ERA by email by P.N

  3. The subject of councils is a serious issue in NSW. The simple fact is we have far too many. Your letter is fabulous in setting out the issues. Bravo

    Comment to the ERA Facebook page by email by P.H

  4. Where is the Mayor?

    Where is the Deputy Mayor [our experienced man of the people] ?

    Where is Council’s governing body – the one that is elected to represent the interests of residents?

    Are they ‘out to lunch’ or are they just waiting for the GM to tell them what to think?

    They display little interest in finding out what residents think.

    Despite the GM’s credentials and her early promises, Catherine Dale seems to have made communication between council and the community an expensive one-way street. Engagement, involvement and inter-action with the community remains superficial.

    It would be interesting to know how much of council’s budget has been spent over the past few years on council’s public relations activities and specialised staff.

    But no amount of spin can overcome council’s problem with staff in senior positions who lack essential “people skills”. Skills that Blackadder Associates identified as missing several years ago.

    Minimal steps to comply with regulations dealing with community consultation only reinforce perceptions in the community that council's senior staff have no genuine interest in the views of others.

    Modern, progressive local government administrations require executive staff with wider, more perceptive skills.

    submitted as an email response to ERA by D.B

  5. As a rate payer in this shire it concerns me greatly how this council runs things.
    At the meeting on Saturday I would like to have discussed the amount of money spent on consultants and glamorous brochures and printouts.

    Also, the amount of money going out of this area in regards to contract work. There are many areas that would be in question as to why tenders from out of the area are given the work. The work done by these out of town tenders is usually not satisfactory or they have cut corners, using inferior materials and work practices.

    Another thing I would like to mention to ERA is the fact that the council employed a firm from Nowra to conduct meetings with selected rate payers. The selection was done by random selection through phone calls. I was selected to go to these meetings twice at a motel in Moruya and was paid $50.00 for each meeting for my trouble. The questions asked were irrelevant, difficult and did not make much sense to any of the participants. Nothing was ever said about these meetings and as far as I could see it was a complete waste of time and money.

    submitted as an email response to ERA by M.H

  6. Submission in response to “ Fit for the Future”

    As a ratepayer in the Eurobodalla Shire Council – and being a rural land holder - we have only been met by obstructions from Council, who have used masses of our money to fight the opinions and wishes of the rate payers. It is definitely my opinion – and lots of others too – that the Council have lost the community’s trust .

    During the extreme events of the LEP farce, the Council have proved, that they have even been dishonest and lied to the residents – a thing which should be unheard of in their position.

    The money, which the Council have now spend in connection with the LEP matter is totally unacceptable. The cost of the staff involved, meetings, establishing the Rural Lands Strategy Commission, use of outside Consultants, and so on, is money, which should not have been necessary to spend, if Council would have listened to the ratepayers, and done like most other Councils have done regarding zonings – namely listened to the rate payers opinions and wishes. If the Council had listened to the rate payers in the first place, we would have been millions of dollars better off financially– as all this bureaucratic attitude could have been totally avoided.

    The Eurobodalla Shire Council have become a bureaucratic organization, which have gone far beyond the requirements of the Council’s duties.

    My wish would be, that the Eurobodalla Shire Council would be divided between Shoalhaven and Bega Councils, and cease to exist. They have proved to be unable to run the Shire.

    It will not be possible with the current staff and their attitude to try and get the Council “in line”, they are acting like an Organization, who is so far removed from reality, that there is no way to turn them around.

    We are continuing tiredlessly to respond to Council, who is wanting more submissions from the rate payers this time regarding the “Policy Directions Paper for Rural Land”. We continue to make submissions, and the result is the same – the Council do not listen.

    The “Policy Directions Paper for Rural Land” is not a document, which the average land holder is able to make a submission on – most of it is in a waffled academic presentation, – which it would have taken masses of hours to compile – and with the trust, that the rate payers now have in the Council – the wording and outlay of the document, have most probably been compiled in this way in order to avoid any response by the rural land holders – thereby claiming that the rate payers “agree on” all aspects of the Policy Paper.

    submitted as an email response to ERA by name witheld

  7. To the ERA

    We have read your report “Fit for the Future Update” and overall are in agreement with it. Unfortunately cannot attend meeting on 9/5/15 but are pleased to see your action being taken.

    Our main concern is the extravagance of the Shire as it raises rates etc on its residents, largely pensioners, with a callous disregard of their ability to remain in their homes.

    As far as your report is concerned our thoughts are:

    1. We agree and support the thoughts of this proposal

    2. Yes

    3. Yes – merge parts of Eurobodalla shire with neighbouring shires with regard to expensive equipment

    4. We feel this could be advantageous

    5. Yes we agree as outlined in item 3, that a co-operative could be made where heavy and expensive capital equipment could be worked between the councils.

    Also we would like to suggest a complete change to council management so that the council is run as a business with a view to eliminating waste of finances and assets. Possibly a General Manager responsible to a small board of directors in place of the elected councillors. A survey would be necessary to determine the best course of action. Proposed changes would need to be investigated thoroughly by an independent body.

    Further we believe should have oversight on any changes or surveys

    submitted as an email response to ERA by name witheld

  8. Thank you for your communication of Tuesday May 5.

    The crux of Community concerns is that Council is not listening to what the Community is saying.

    Frustrating to see, during our twenty seven years as rate payers the swelling of the Council bureaucracy. The Councillors, representing their community have been unable stop the amplitude of staff numbers.

    Service delivery programmes:

    Over time and supported by the conditions under which staff are employed Council is now, effectively, a third level public service. The General Manager has privately commented on the difficulty of dis-engaging staff with the Award conditions under which they work.
    Projects are conceived that in most other Local Government areas, are community driven.
    An example is Landcare which was taken over or taken away from communities which provided voluntary management and community support.
    The Council staffing numbers are supported by supplementary Federal and State grants now resulting in a 'department' of landcare. Why not a small of qualified staffers working with and supporting community groups who would again have' ownership' of 'their' projects?
    Council executives and their support staff are in a position to develop concepts, write screeds, have meetings and write reports to justify their actions. Exercise bikes in the Library to charge visitors 'phones!!

    Community members do not have the time and in most cases do not have the resources to respond to or counter Council proposals.

    ERA's earlier communication referred to" community consultation" at the various weekend markets. A social setting unlikely to provide specific feedback, agreed, is hardly community consultation.

    Significant community consultation and call for submissions were part of the Rural Lands Strategy - notably the Policy Directions Workshops.
    The draft policy paper has been released and on first reading the mantra is the same. Despite very vocal, concerned and at times angry input by a large cross section of the community. Council, again, appear not listening to some of the core concerns and unprepared to take the lead in proposing changes to State government templates.

    There is an urgent need to develop policies that encourage and support industry; to improve employment prospects; to encourage local businesses; to encourage tourism and above all, encourage people to live in and enjoy all that the Shire has to offer.

    submitted as an email response to ERA by name witheld

  9. To the ERA
    While I admire you all for actually bothering to keep up with all this info, I think that a lot of us don’t feel like there is much we an do to stop/change the Council doing what they are doing.

    You suggest that they have more public consultations….but I have been involved in some of their “consultations” and I find them to be a TOTAL sham- held mainly so they can say they held consultations. Then they just do what they were planning to do all along. Their recent “consultations” about whether we all wanted our rates raised 24% cost the Council a fortune to run ( hiring consultant firms to write long biases reports, etc) and was equally a sham! Once again they just twisted the supposed results to strengthen their application, which they put in anyway.

    More of these ‘consultations” will have absolutely no effect except to cost the Council even more money.

    Since ERA members remained a minority and now two of your elected members have defected…..I don’t think you can achieve much except “pester power” until the next election.

    I agree there is no reason for them to set up so many parallel and costly services, which we already have state government paid to run. While the Council has a good disability service, the State also has an office of the Dept of Aging and Disability based in Bateman’s Bay and covering the Shire. If the Shire did not run this service, the Dept of A & D would be forced to actually do their job or face an outcry.

    submitted as an email response to ERA by name witheld

  10. "In response to your request for feedback on options for a viable local government structure in the Eurobodalla Local Government Area I think that it is important that all realistic options be thoroughly evaluated preferably through an economic cost benefit analysis. Such an analysis would consider all financial and social costs-benefits of the options.

    Some options that come to mind are:
    1. Do nothing.
    2. Amalgamation with one more neighbouring councils.
    3. Retain the Eurobodalla Shire Council entity and establish a single joint organisation with neighbouring councils that would provide a range of services such as IT, HR, payroll, accounting, financial reporting, capital equipment management, facilities maintenance, strategic planning, operating and capital budgeting etc. The joint organisation would provide these services on a fee for service basis. The entity could be incorporated and the member councils would each have a shareholding in the entity.
    4. Retain the Eurobodalla Shire Council structure and sell the water supply and sewerage services to a private sector operator. Other services should be examined to determine whether they provide a net benefit to the community. In essence a functional review of services and administrative structures should be conducted.

    There no doubt are other options. However, I reiterate my stated view that the options, whatever they are, must be fully examined.

    The options to be examined need to be developed in full consultation with the community and there is an important role for the ERA to encourage community participation and to guard against the tendency of councillors and council management to preserve their vested interests."

    submitted as an email response to ERA by name witheld


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