Maranoa councillors vote to not reveal cost of restructure
The entire way Maranoa Regional Council and its 350 staff operate will be totally different come September after the mayor’s controversial restructure was approved, however the cost of this monumental change will not be shared with the community.
While mayor Tyson Golder labelled it a “historic day” for the Maranoa after the majority of councillors voted in favour of his structure shake up in the meeting on Wednesday, March 24, some councillors demanded the price of the restructure be revealed to the ratepayer who will ultimately pay the price.
Two critics of the mayor’s restructure, Crs Joh Hancock and Cameron O’Neil began their pleas to their fellow councillors that it wasn’t too long ago they campaigned on the basis of being “open and transparent” and said an easy way to do that would be by sharing the budget figure in the resolution.
Cr Hancock admitted that the figure had been shared around the council table and ratepayers ought to know.
“I just would think the ratepayers deserve to know what we know, what the budget figure is for this or structure,” Cr Hancock said.
“That’s actually being open and transparent, and it’s really important when we are making a big decision and when it’s a lot of money for the ratepayers that a budget is actually in the resolution.”
Cr O’Neil continued to ask why if councillors truly believed the cost of the restructure was not significant, then why wouldn’t it be shared it with the public.
“There are councillors here and candidates who were not successful at the last election, who campaigned solely on having an open and transparent decision to council. Now, here is an example how we can illustrate to the community the warts and all,” Cr O’Neil said.
“I know there will be questions councillors are asked down the street and mayor if you’re right it’s going to cost next to nothing well let’s share that, but if it’s not we should open and transparent and be accountable to the ratepayers who put us here … because at the end of the day we are dealing with other people’s money.
“So, I wholeheartedly support the amendment.”
Voting against Cr Hancock’s amendment, the mayor said the restructure won’t incur a significant cost and money will be saved in other areas.
“I totally disagree, obviously this motion put down … that this change will be funded, fully funded in this budget,” he said.
“I also disagree that it will cost a large amount of money, actually I think it will cost a small amount of money which we have a lot of vacant positions that we fund anyway in the council budget each year … but when looking to $80-100 million budget, the savings can be made by looking at what we do which far outweighs the difference between vacant positions and utilising this and it’s really about efficient service delivery that we will be focusing on.”
To clarify the mayor’s point, Cr Julie Guthrie asked if the budget was passed, would there have been any financial implications to the existing budget.
“No that’s the idea, is that it will be funded in the budget … that’s when financial expenditure then all the public will get to see that,” Cr Golder replied.
Understanding the figure will be released to the public in the budget, Cr Hancock asked why council would not just opt to release the figure now as they know the approximate amount.
“Once again, I understand you are going to tell people the budget and that it will include this, but we have been given a figure right now … you are about to adopt an organisational structure that will cost the ratepayer money,” Cr Hancock said.
“And we know what the approximate figure is, and I think that in the same resolution when adopting a structure, it is open and transparent and to include the estimated annual cost of what it will be to ratepayer, that’s why I believe to be open and transparent we should have the figure of the organisational structure.”
CEO Julie Reitano said council’s decision does impact future budgets.
“Whatever council decides, it does impact the forward estimates in the budget, we don’t just adopt a one-year budget, we adopt forward estimates, so we would need to come back and update the budget,” Ms Reitano added.
It was only some months ago when The Western Star reached out to councillors about the cost of the restructure with some members saying they had no idea what the cost would even look like.
In favour of Cr Hancock’s amendment was Crs O’Neil and Wendy Taylor.
It was voted down by Crs Golder, Geoff McMullen, Guthrie, Mark Edwards, John Birkett and George Ladbrook.
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