How does SRV address weak financial position?

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

Dear Editor:

I find it very encouraging that the council is making a real effort to inform and consult with residents throughout the LGA regarding the proposed Special Rate Variation (SRV) and its impact on the council’s future as a standalone entity. I am, however, left with three questions.

The NSW Government’s Fit for the Future Report identified Yass Valley Council as not-fit largely because of a “weak financial position” and highlighted its backlog in asset maintenance, I congratulate the mayor for indicating that the bulk of the money would be spent on roads and bridges, but this still leaves the question of how the SRV will be used to address our weak financial position.

The Fit for the Future Report also noted that: “The assessment of Rural Councils as meeting the scale and capacity criterion is contingent on the Government adopting a Rural Council Model. This model is based on reducing the regulatory and compliance burden on Rural Councils, by the JO (Joint Organisation) performing most of the higher level functions of the Rural Council. If a Rural Council model is not adopted, it is likely that most Rural Councils would be assessed as not meeting the scale and capacity criterion, and as a result, not fit.”

Yass Valley Council was deemed to meet the scale and capacity criterion, but we have not heard what will be the significance for operations and staffing from the JO performing most of the high-level functions of the council.

Wouldn’t that just be amalgamation by another name?

Additionally, at the recent Yass Valley Business Chamber Breakfast the Hon Pru Goward MP made it very clear that if our application for an SRV is not approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) then we will be amalgamated.

I am left to ponder what the likelihood of the tribunal accepting our submission when this SRV is for 38.6 per cent over peg over four years, when our previous submission (which was deemed insufficient) was for 37.2 per cent over five years.

Finally, one argument that I have heard over and over is that it would not be in the best interests of Yass Valley to be part of a super council covering a very large geographic area that would be difficult to service and maintain.

Of course, no evidence has been put forward to support this assertion, which is itself quite ironic given that the Yass Valley Council itself was born of an amalgamation in 1980 (Gooradigbee Shire Council and Yass Municipal Council) and then grew by further amalgamation in 2004 (parts of Gunning and Yarrowlumla Shire Councils).

Alex Tewes
Yass

2 Comments

  1. Gill Elphinston

    December 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Hi Alex,

    Thank you for you letter to the editor.

    For the readers, I just wanted to clarify one point over the SRV and why the differing rate and number of years.

    In Yass Valley Council’s Fit for the Future submission in July Council put forward a 50.7% SRV over 5 years. However after our submission, Council was informed of additional Roads to Recovery funding being made available by the Federal Government. Due to this additional funding Council made the decision to defer the SRV at their August Council meeting as it was believed that this funding would assist with the backlog of asset (infrastructure) maintenance that the original SRV was being implemented for. Unfortunately even with the Roads to Recovery Funding Yass Valley Council did not meet the Operating Performance Ratio used by IPART to determine the financial sustainability of councils throughout NSW.

    YVC is now proposing a cumulative rate increase of 38.6% over 4 years (down from 50.7% over 5 years). This lower and shorter SRV is due to:
    – additional Roads to Recovery Funding
    – operational savings of $200,000 for 3 years, due to a full and extensive review of Council’s existing services
    – land sales of $1,000,000 over the next 2 years

    I hope this provides further clarification to your question. Council still has 3 Community Forums to undertake (Bowning – 7th December, Wallaroo – 8th December & Murrumbateman – 10th December). We encourage all residents to attend so they understand why Council is proposing an SRV and the positive impacts that will come from the proposed SRV within our community.

    Gill Elphinston
    Media & Communications Officer
    Yass Valley Council

  2. Alex Tewes

    Alex Tewes

    December 7, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Gill ~ Thanks for the prompt response!

    After two decades in the APS, I find the idea that a search for efficiencies will actually yield cash savings somewhat difficult to believe. Of course, if what you are saying is that there will be a lower level of service to residents accompanied by sacking staff, then I will believe you (but not like it). Also, selling capital assets (land) to fund recurring expenditure seems a bit short-sighted.

    It’s a pity that no analysis of the potential benefits of amalgamation as an alternative has been undertaken or publicised by council . All we residents can do is think wistfully about what could have been done with the several million dollars on offer from the NSW government for councils that are proactive about amalgamation. Maybe we could have had a covered swimming pool? or a multi-purpose Arts Centre, or several other projects that will be difficult to find funds for if we retain our standalone status.

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