pen-and-padIT MIGHT be only $33,000 and in a budget of $68.5 million, it may appear to be little more than loose change.
But the decision by the Bass Coast Shire Council to throw out its iPads, purchased little more than two years ago, in favour of a dubious IT upgrade, sends out all the wrong signals.
First, it’s a waste of public money.
Second, it’s the council looking after its own needs again ahead of the community’s basic requirements.
And third, it’s an indication that council is out of touch with its constituency.
And it comes against the backdrop of an extremely parlous financial situation where Bass Coast has saddled itself with $5 million more in employee expenses than other like councils ($28.2m) while collecting upwards of $8 million less in rates.
There’s an incredible squeeze on for available funds at Bass Coast and in the absence of a proper strategy to deal with the runaway wages situation, waste and discretionary purchases must be heavily scrutinised.
It’s budget time at South Gippsland and Bass Coast shires and an avalanche of paperwork has started to descend on the community.
There is some useful information in these documents but because the general public is excluded from budget negotiations, it is almost impossible for them to have meaningful input during the community consultation stages.
But that’s exactly how they like it.
If ‘new notebooks cost $30,000’ had been listed as a line item for the community to see in last year’s Bass Coast budget, it almost certainly would not have been given priority by the community.
And there isn’t enough time
for structural changes to be made either.
What the councils need to do if they want genuine feedback is to throw open the doors of the council chambers during these budget planning sessions and not only list what projects and services are in the budget, but also list the projects, wanted by the community, that didn’t make it.
These documents also need to be easy to read, rather than an attempt to hide what’s really going on behind those closed doors.
Front and centre in the budget papers should be a statement about efficiency and what is being done to get the best possible value out of every available dollar.
All councils can and must achieve savings across their whole operations and in the present economic climate this unfortunately includes savings in the staff expenditure area as well.