Comrie calls for council cost control

WITH a forecast deficit of $1.154 million, Adelaide Plains Council has been urged to focus on expenditure by John Comrie, chairman of the APC Audit Committee.

APC approved the Draft 2017/2018 Annual Business Plan, Budget and 2018-2027 Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) document for public consultation at the April 18 general meeting.

“The key thing for your council to focus on is the ongoing operating result, this council has an operating deficit, of the order of $700,000 per annum,” Mr Comrie said.

“It needs, therefore, to be careful about its expenditure decisions.”

Eliminating the deficit would require continual prudential focus and be an ongoing process, achieved over five to seven years.

The draft budget was prepared on council’s previous rate capping motion, since rescinded; illustrating what a 1.8 per cent, 3 per cent and 3.25 per cent increase would look like for ratepayers.

Councillors talked of further workshopping budgetary ideas to bring spending down, rather than increasing rates, in order to service its payment obligations on time without borrowing more money.

Cr Strudwicke emphasised the need to look at how much was going to be spent, rather than how much was going to be raised, during the workshops.

“We need to look at what potential there is to cut, now there may be no potential to cut, in which case that decision becomes a harder decision, in terms of the rates,” he said.

Finance and Economic Development general manager, Rajith Udugampola, said council needed to cut about $1 million of expenses to break even.

This could be staggered over subsequent financial years to minimise the effect on community services, however he explained a cut of $239,000 was already proposed after last month’s rate capping decision and “to cut further will impact the community”.

Talk of using external contractors for some services, such as waste collection, in a bid to save money on wages was discussed.

“For many of our services, we look towards what is the most economical way of delivering those services,” infrastructure general manager, Martin Waddington said.

“In the past, we have found that internalising those services, delivering them ourselves, has been the most cost-effective way of doing it.

“It’s a balance.”

The idea of workshopping the issue was once again raised with Cr Strudwicke winding up the motion to pass the Draft Budget with a final

“At this stage all we’re saying is here let the community have a say as well as show them the document, they can then provide some input back to us on May 8, in the meantime we’ll have a workshop.”

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