For Immediate Release 16 May 2023
Authorised by Councillor Tony Flanery
I thought it might be worthwhile putting together a brief summary of the operations of Council, as it is never that easy to understand.
Councillors are responsible (via the budget) for the allocation of capital expenditure on the renewal of assets and the allocation of money for repair and maintenance. We do not get to decide in detail what the money will specifically be spent on. That is the role/job of the Council Executive.
Councillors appoint (or retain if already appointed) the General Manager, but no one else. The General Manager is responsible for the hiring and firing of all other staff.
At the March Council Meeting, I moved a motion to have the Executive Staff list their monthly activities in the Council business paper. There was some opposition to the proposal, however I believe it is important that the public know the people who make most of the decisions regarding the use of ratepayer’s money. Particularly when some Councillors constantly adopt the recommendations of staff without question.
There are basically three separate business units of Council. The General Fund, which deals with road repair and maintenance, pools, libraries, parks, street cleanliness etc. The Water and Sewer Fund, which delivers, operates and maintains the like-named business. Lastly, the Waste Fund, which deals with waste collection and disposal.
If you don’t receive garbage collection or are not connected to the town water supply then you aren’t charged rates for the operation of those businesses. General rates collected do not go towards the operation of the latter two businesses.
Roads are by far and away the largest expense of Council making up around 65% of total expenditure. It is for this reason and due to the state of the roads that they receive so much attention.
Councils receive their income from rates and charges as well as from grants from the State and Federal Government, with the majority coming from the State Government. Most grants are tied to specific items or causes of action for example, road repair, bridge repair or the upgrade of community facilities. There are very few grants where Council is free to choose where or what to spend the money on.
Some grants are politically motivated to boost a party’s chances of winning an election but most are grants that roll from one year to the next for the same work.
Council has very limited opportunity to increase its income as rate rises are capped and grants are the decision of other levels of government. Most of our expenses on the other hand are determined by the market (supply and demand), so it is therefore important that we focus on productivity and good management. Unfortunately, in the 13 years I have been on Council, this has been often neglected.
Hilltops Council is in a very tight financial position and it is very important we maximize productivity and limit expenditure where possible. Both are very difficult when Councillors have little say or choose not to have a say in either.