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Heated Budget expo

The proposed 6 per cent rate rise was at the forefront of many discussions between Campaspe Shire rateypayers and councillors at a meeting about council's 2014-15 draft Budget this week.

RENEE THOMPSON May 30, 2014 11:08am

New format: Attending Wednesday’s Campaspe Shire Budget expo were (from left) John Shaw, Neil Pankhurst, David Gilbert and Allan Cochrane.


Tensions over Campaspe Shire’s 2014-15 draft Budget reached boiling point on Wednesday at an expo in Rochester.
 
Mayor Ian Maddison accused Campaspe Concerned Citizens spokesperson Robert Danieli of grandstanding, saying Mr Danieli chose to speak to the media and the crowd at the event more than councillors.
 
‘‘It concerns me why someone would come to a forum, where they have access to all the councillors and council staff, and choose not to speak to them,’’ Cr Maddison said.
 
The pair debated topics such as shire’s staffing levels and pay rates, the flow on effects of the shire’s tourism strategy, the savings council has made since taking over pools from YMCA and the proposed 6 per cent rate rise.
 
Frustrations eventually reached boiling point with Cr Maddison lambasting Mr Danieli for his literal and figurative finger pointing.
 
‘‘You need, you need, you need. I am tired of hearing about what you need, Robert,’’ he said.
 
Speaking to the Riv yesterday, Cr Maddison clarified his comments, admitting he was ‘‘a bit short’’.
 
‘‘He was telling me what to do, as an individual,’’ he said.
 
‘‘He had the opportunity to be on council and he chose to leave. We don’t need someone who had that opportunity standing back and telling us what to do. I was parodying him for a specific purpose.’’
 
Mr Danieli, however, said he left council to take a shot at a Senate seat and had ‘‘no axe to grind other than that the community are asking for my help’’.
 
‘‘I didn’t jump ship because of a whim, but because of having an opportunity to look at things on a bigger scale and a chance of getting into the federal Senate,’’ he said.
 
‘‘What I’m saying isn’t trying to influence council about what I’d be doing, I’m saying what the community is saying to me.’’
 
Mr Danieli said one of the reasons the Campaspe Concerned Citizens group had started a petition against the rate rise was because of council’s ‘‘pure focus on positives rather than the focus on things they need to fix (in the budget)’’.
 
He said many in the community did not like what was perceived to be a ‘‘we know best’’ attitude from council.
 
‘‘There is so much disengagement in the community. I want to see a capacity to listen and change,’’ he said.
 
Cr Maddison said many of the issues raised by Mr Danieli were already being addressed.
 
‘‘What Rob says is correct — we need to look at all our costs, we need to have our CEO be very aware of staffing levels, we need to have a look at what assets we have and provide in the community,’’ he said.
 
‘‘We are doing that, our asset review is continuously on the go. Robert knows all this because he was a councillor.’’
 
But Mr Danieli said council’s ‘‘number one responsibility is to represent the interests of the community’’.
 
‘‘It’s clear there’s a lot of feelings about council spending and services,’’ he said.
 
‘‘Internal efficiencies need to be looked at to try and generate savings so the public is not always the poor bugger who needs to dip into their pockets.
 
‘‘They (council) can’t just continue on their merry way.’’
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