The opportunity to comment on Armidale Regional Council’s Revised Delivery Program 2022-2026 and Resourcing Strategy 2022-2026 will close this Friday January 20.
The documents will form part of ARC’s application to IPART to increase rates by 50% over the next three years. The controversial proposal does not have the broad support of the community, with their own survey results finding 66% supported managed decline of community assets, 70% supported some worsening of road conditions, and 75% supported some decommissioning of community buildings, rather than the large rate increase. Council ignored that consultation result and voted for the rates increase.
The various consultations undertaken in regard to the Special Rate Variation (SRV) have been widely criticised. The first consultation on the various documents was held entirely under the shadow of the federal election campaign in 2022 when those with the skills to dig into the documents were too busy to do so. Some pointed out that the survey was written in such a way that you had to say you supported the decline and decommissioning of public assets or the SRV, there was no ‘neither’ or ‘other’. Some were critical that there was no middle option of perhaps a smaller rate increase and less ambitious plans.
This latest consultation has also drawn complaints and described as flawed. The consultation began on December 16, but no one was notified that it was up on the Your Say site until the 11th of January, a mere 9 days before the close of the consultation. Some have commented on social media that they were trying to ‘sneak’ it through in the Christmas period, and, as was the case for the initial consultation, the short time period has been criticised given the enormity of the 10 documents.
Council’s communication team have told the New England Times that this consultation was on our Your Say site from the 16th of December 2022 and on Council’s website in the news section and a link through the public notices section, as well as on their social media channels as part of the December council meeting wrap-up. Council claims the email to registered users through our Your Say website was a reminder.
The New England Times checked the various sources that we were pointed to, and none included an announcement that the consultation was open, only that there would be a period of public exhibition of 28 days on the amended plans.
Helpfully, there is a change log on the consultation announcement page. It notes the following changes:
Changes made to the Delivery Program 2022-26 include:
- Page 2 Addition to the Introduction explaining the purpose of the Addendum
- Page 4 Addition of date ‘June 2022’ to the Mayor’s message
- Page 7 Removal of reference to estimated increases to rates, and replacement with reference to actual increases Addendum. Addition of date ‘June 2022’ to the General Manager’s message.
- Page 9 Updated organisational structure
- Page 16 Reference to the SRV addendum, and small wording changes
- Page 18 Updates to the income statement to reflect changes in the Resourcing Strategy
- Page 18 Updates to the Capital Works Program to reflect changes made in the Resourcing Strategy
- Pages 21-43 Updates to ‘Responsible Department’ to align to now implemented organisational structure
- Page 43 Replacement of wording for Council Initiative S2.3.4 to meet requirements of IPART
- Page 45 Attachment of the Addendum
Changes to the Resourcing Strategy include:
- Page 57 Inclusion of updated asset data and graph for 30 June 2022
- Page 59 Inclusion of depreciation data for year ended 30 June 2022
- Page 60 Updated organisational structure diagram
- Page 71 – 75 Updated ratio tables for 30 June 2022 data and projections. Unmanaged Decline scenario included.
- Page 78 – 102 Updated scenario tables for 30 June 2022 data and projections. Unmanaged Decline scenario included.
The updated organisational structure, one of the more substantive changes, reflects the addition of two new senior executives: a new Chief Financial Officer and promoting the Executive Manager of People and Culture to the c-suite, swelling the number of well paid top executives in the cash-strapped council from 4 to 6. Another substantive addition is construction of the proposed Rail Trail.
The documents open for consultation are available online at https://yoursay.armidale.nsw.gov.au/revised-delivery-program-2022-2026-and-resourcing-strategy-2022-2026.
Submissions can be sent by mail or email. They must be titled Revised IP&R Documents and addressed to the General Manager, Armidale Regional Council, PO Box 75A, Armidale NSW 2350 or sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions close Friday 20 January 2023.