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Moira councillor attacks budget

In a strange turn of events, a sitting Moira Shire Councillor has put in a public submission to his own council questioning the merit of the 2014/2015 draft budget.

RACHEAL WILLETT June 17, 2014 4:18pm

At a budget meeting held last week to hear feedback from the public on the draft document, a letter from Cr Kevin Bourke was included among the 182 written submissions.

Cr Bourke was absent from the meeting due to a hospital stay.

Within his submission Cr Bourke asks if Moira Shire Council, of which he is an elected representative, has misled the community with inaccurate figures and a “glossed over version” of the budget.

He says what he believes to be incorrect figures in the budget provide an “unreliable and deficient outcome”.

Cr Bourke also directly references a submission provided by Moira Shire Council’s ex-Chief Financial Officer Adrian Pawar who left the organisation’s employ in 2013 and has since been a frequently outspoken critic of the council’s financial management.

“Have we misled our community by announcing that the proposed rate increase is to be 5.5% and the municipal charge and some others are proposed to be 3.5%, but with a careful look at the fine print, many of these fees and charges are proposed to rise by a lot more than these suggested amounts,” he wrote.

“Particularly when we should be looking at the adopted budget figures as displayed in Mr Pawar’s example rather than the forecast budget figures.

“Is there an explanation available please?” asked Cr Bourke of his own council.

Moira Shire Council Chief Executive Officer Mark Henderson told the Yarrawonga Chronicle Cr Bourke was entitled to put in a budget submission as a private citizen.

However, he said he had given Cr Bourke advice that his decision to do so would impact his involvement in future budget discussions.

“Every councillor can exercise their right to put in a submission whether it is to the budget, or on a planning matter or a VCAT matter,” Mr Henderson said.

“But once a sitting councillor does that they compromise their capacity to be an objective councillor on that issue. They can’t then sit and evaluate the merits of any submission, their own or anyone else’s.

“My advice, which I have given to Cr Bourke, is that he will now need to remove himself from any further council budget discussions.”

While council is yet to fully consider all budget submissions, Mr Henderson did respond in brief to ongoing concerns raised over the level of rates increases.

“In simple terms, if a house is worth $220,000 – capital improved value – then the true interpretation of a rate rise is how much will rates go up in one year for that property – the proposed rates increase is 5.5%,” Mr Henderson said.

“What’s the combination of that increase and the municipal charges going up by 3.5%? The final overall affect is around a 5% total increase.

“With regard to proposed increases in the environmental levy and the new green waste charge – are they rate rises? No, technically they are not.”

Cr Bourke was contacted by the Yarrawonga Chronicle regarding his decision to put in a public budget submission and he said he was aware it was an unusual thing to do.

He said he would be absent from a council only briefing to be held late last week as he was still in Melbourne.

“So in order to represent the Moira community, I believe it needs to be all out in the open,” he said.

“The democratically elected council are responsible to ensure the viability and sustainability of council.

“Individual councillors do rely on information supplied to them by council officers. If this information is untimely/incorrect or incomplete how can there be an expectation of sound decision making.” 

                                                                                                                

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