Terry Walker ramps up his campaign to make council “accountable”

The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun holds a Q&A session with local resident Terry Walker – a vocal critic of Bellingen Shire Council's proposed rate rise.

HOW TO OPPOSE THE RATE RISE: A section of Terry Walker's advertisement, which was printed in the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun.

HOW TO OPPOSE THE RATE RISE: A section of Terry Walker's advertisement, which was printed in the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun.

You say that council should not go for another rate rise - council contends we need the rise to cover the Long Term Financial Plan. What do you think should be cut out – it would require not just a wage cut but also a cut to services.

I do not trust any (Local) Government Long Term Financial Plan. We’ve seen it all too many times before.

Yes, staff cuts would be required to bring BSC into line with adjoining councils, and why not?

You’ve seen the figures where 80 per cent of the income collected from rates is being paid to staff. This is clearly unsustainable. There has been an erosion of the sustainability within this council over the last decade. Call it what you like, I call it bad management.

If they applied the principles required to run a successful, privately owned business, there would be minimal rate increases required and services would be fully funded.

Could the council please explain the cut to which services?

We have no Lido at Urunga, our road and bridge situation is unchanged. The roundabouts off the Highway, the planter boxes in our streets are weed filled or dying.

The condition of and the pollution in the main streets, particularly in Bellingen is a disgrace. Why has the Bellinger River been allowed to reach the point where people are suffering ear infections, our beautiful snapping turtles are gone and the feral Indian Myna Bird is now in record numbers.

What services?

Would you like me to continue there is not enough room on your page.

You’ve been vocal in what the three senior staff earn – why are they not worth it?

All of the above and more.

The upper management is responsible for the performance of this Council. Clearly it is not performing.

The mayor and councilors are responsible for assessing the performance of the general manager and are solely responsible for the hiring or firing of that position.

The mayor and councilors hold a position that is similar to the Chairman and Board of Directors in a private company. The question is do they know it?

If the previous mayor and councilors had had the business skills to hold the general manager to account we would have a very different result today.

What does this Shire need (local government wise)?

  • Streamline the current running of this council.
  • Transparency and respect for the people who pay their wages
  • Visible evidence that council cares about the environment, our rivers and our wildlife.
  • More skilled staff working outside.
  • Front desk staff are a treasure.

What role do councillors play – they signed off on the council staff wages bill.

At this early stage I’m sure they are doing the very best they can.

The previous mayor and councilors had no choice regarding the wage increase. It was an enterprise bargaining agreement set up and approved by the State Government. The mayor and councilors supported the increase. They did not approve it.

How will the rate rise impede residents and businesses – council say per household it is very minimal.

It is minimal for someone with a wage package of $5000 a week … why should the ratepayers of this shire be forced to pay for an unnecessary increase that will compound for the next seven years? If you’re paying rates in Urunga your rate bill will have increased by $2000 at the end of that period.

I should point out an increase in rates will also result in increases for people in rental accommodation along with the people renting business premises in our towns

I have heard you are moving to Valla - why does the BSC concern you?

Incorrect, I am not moving to Valla.

During last year’s council election you appeared to change tact - firstly supporting Desmae Harrison then Steve Jenkins. Is that accurate? If so, why?

Yes, that is correct. My intention was to support Desmae Harrison until I learned she was one of the councilors who voted to allow the EMS Quarry to run 600 heavy transport vehicles a week through the main streets of Dorrigo and Bellingen. There was no consideration for the resulting pollution that we ultimately breath in or is washed down the drains and gutters into wetlands, creeks and the rivers.

I studied Mr Jenkins’ credentials and then during our conversations it was clear to me he was more than qualified for the job.

Why don’t you run for council?

Alongside Garry Carter and Steve Jenkins, you’ve got me thinking!

Any finally – other thoughts?

On the Bellingen Council website read the Bellingen Long Term Financial Plan 2016/17 to 2025/26. In particular pages 4,5 and 6.

Let’s have some more Letters-to-the-Editor.

Public exhibition of documents relating to the proposed 2017/18 Special Rate Variation

Council at its meeting held on December 14, 2016 resolved to place the Updated Long Term Financial Plan and Delivery Program on public exhibition for a minimum period of six weeks and that written submissions be invited for consideration by Council.

The Long Term Financial Plan and Delivery Program will be on public exhibition until Tuesday, January 31 and is available for viewing during normal business hours at the following locations.

  • Council Administrative Centre, Hyde Street Bellingen
  • Bellingen Library
  • Urunga Library
  • Dorrigo Library

The plan can also be downloaded from Council’s website – www.bellingen.nsw.gov.au

Interested parties are invited to make a written submission regarding the documents.

Submissions will be received up until 4.30pm on Tuesday, January 31 and must be titled ‘Special Rate Variation 2017/18’ and either addressed to: The General Manager, Bellingen Shire Council, PO Box 117, Bellingen 2454.

Or submitted via email to: council@bellingen.nsw.gov.au

For further details contact council on 6655 7300 between 8.30am and 4.30pm weekdays.

Drop in sessions to discuss the rate rise will also take place in each of the townships on the following dates: 

  • Tuesday 24 January 2017 – Dorrigo Community Hall – 9am to 12pm 
  • Tuesday 24 January 2017 – Urunga Literary Hall – 2pm to 5pm 
  • Wednesday 25 January 2017 – Bellingen Memorial Hall – 3pm to 6pm

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