BASS Coast Shire Cr Les Larke issued a series of 11th hour amendments at a council meeting on Wednesday, in an attempt to drastically change the Council Plan 2017-21.
Cr Larke unsuccessfully attempted three times to alter the papers, trying to reduce costs and scrap the controversial office space leasing to Phillip Island Nature Parks (PINP).
In a motion to adopt the Council Plan, Cr Larke first moved an amendment to reduce the total amount of employee benefits.
But Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield knocked it back, arguing it was a significant amendment and the Council Plan would have to be re-advertised.
“We can’t on one hand adopt a Council Plan, as attached, and then alter it because that just contradicts each other,” she said.
Cr Rothfield refused to accept it, apparently differing from advice Cr Larke said he received from the Municipal Association of Victoria.
“Dually noted,” Cr Rothfield said before Cr Larke attempted to move a second amendment to adopt the Council Plan 2017-21 and rid the Strategic Resource Plan, and anywhere else it’s mentioned, of all financial transactions relating to the office space redevelopment for Phillip Island Nature Parks.
Cr Rothfield said it wasn’t a significant amendment so she could accept it, but no-one seconded it and she declared the motion lost.
Then Cr Fullarton seconded it for the purpose of the debate.
Cr Larke reeled off a mix of reasons why he didn’t want council to go ahead with the leasing of office space to PINP, as part of the upgrade of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre.
“I’m not clear, in terms of the financial information, and the understanding of the commercial and market return for that, particularly as we’re borrowing more than $1.6 million to refurbish these premises on the basis there’s going to be some sort of asset at the end of the process, at the end of a 10 year lease,” Cr Larke said.
Cr Fullarton stood by the amendment when it went to a vote, but having himself and Cr Larke the only ones supporting it, they lost.
Cr Larke wasn’t giving up there, launching a final bid to use council’s Long Service Leave Reserve for additional capital works. His motion stated the reserve had been made redundant.
He was cut off by Cr Rothfield, who again argued it would require re-advertising and it needed to change to an alternative motion. So he changed it.
But first, Cr Rothfield insisted, councillors needed to pass the Council Plan 2017-21.
Cr Michael Whelan, clearly frustrated with Cr Larke’s amendments, lashed out at the councillor.
“We’ve taken the trouble to get across these issues and then a series of very detailed amendments are produced at 3 o’clock this afternoon, without the time to get across this material.
“That is just not good enough,” Cr Whelan said.
“There’s no I in team Cr Larke and there certainly isn’t much of you in team either.
“We’re talking about sacking people to put more money into capital.
“Who’s gonna do the work?”
Cr Julian Brown and Cr Larke voted against adopting the Council Plan 2017-21 and the rest of the councillors voted in favour of it, successfully moving the motion.
Councillors moved onto the Budget 2017-18, where most of the discussion evolved around employee costs.
Cr Brown said employee costs were the single largest expenditure and “We are not doing anything in that area.”
“I’m not saying get rid of whole armies of people, but I think we all want to see more capital expenditure.”
When he ran for councillor, Cr Brown said he told voters after four years he wanted to see more money invested into infrastructure.
“That doesn’t happen in this Budget over four years,” he said, adding that council would be spending less than it does for this coming financial year.
Cr Larke acknowledged “We’ve stopped the haemorrhaging”, in relation to the “modest” surplus following five years of deficits.
Cr Fullarton, jumping on the employee cost bandwagon, said the costs were “quite alarming”.
Cr Whelan closed the discussions and said, “Of course employee costs are a large part of the Budget, we’re a service industry.”
Cr Brown and Cr Larke voted against adopting the Budget 2017-18, while the rest of the councillors voted in favour of it, successfully moving the motion.
Larke’s last minute budget bid fails