HERE, on the front page of the ‘Sentinel-Times’ this week, is yet another example of why the Bass Coast Shire Council needs to drive savings and efficiencies even harder in its next term.
And why the criminal waste of money we have seen by the present regime needs to be staunched.
What we need to remember is that the council and the shire’s administration is there to serve the community, to do whatever it can to maintain and improve the standard of our services and community facilities, with the aim of better social, economic and environmental outcomes for the people.
Creating the right conditions for private-sector business to grow local jobs must be a priority.
So when opportunities like that which is being presented with the incredibly generous offer of art historian Bob Smith, of the gift a $1.25 million art collection, comes up, it can be welcomed with open arms.
The shire has done the right thing, in this case, doing the due diligence on the collection by employing an expert consultant but having established its bonafides, it needs to move quickly to secure the gift.
It should then move strongly ahead with plans to establish a major regional art gallery here, mindful of the gap for such facilities in this area, away from the closest regional galleries at Morwell and Sale.
A plan to build on the collection, with significant art purchases and visiting exhibitions in the years ahead should also be planned for.
Certainly these developments would require Federal, State and philanthropic funding but the shire would also need to be able to commit some of its own funds by way of seeding for bids.
And notwithstanding the comments made in a ‘Letter to the Editor’ this week by Cr Neil Rankine, that the present council has increased the amount of money from rates going “directly on maintenance, renewal, and money for matching government grants for new assets” from $4.65 per $100 in rates to $16.23 per $100, you need to look at the detail in the budget to get the real picture.
Because the fact is, very little is going towards grants for new assets.
In a capital works budget of $16m in 2016-17, only $2.2m goes to “new asset expenditure” and $3.2m to “asset upgrade expenditure”. One of the big ticket items in the capital budget, for example, is a $905,000 upgrade to the shire’s own computers.
In 2018-19, there’s almost no money budgeted for anything other than asset renewal, all the time while staff wages go up by $1m annually.
No one has got anything against the people working for the shire. They do a fantastic job and if we could afford to keep an EFT staff of 320 employed, while delivering on the reasonable expectations of the community that would be great.
But, as David Parkin said recently, kids who don’t have access to club sport (or other team-based pastimes) are at risk of ending up in juvenile detention. In other words, it’s absolutely criminal that a town the size of Wonthaggi doesn’t, for example, have a dual-court basketball stadium.
And you could include the Island’s call for a heated pool as well.
Because if it’s a choice between executive salaries and non-core jobs at the shire and the future of our kids… some hard calls need to be made.
Those thinking of nominating for the council elections this week need to be connected with the community, they need to be able to read and revise a budget and to be able to work together to get outcomes for the community.