Harden Express letters to the editor, June 15, 2017

HER SAY: Hilltops Regional Council administrator Wendy Tuckerman has written a letter in a bid to address numerous issues.
HER SAY: Hilltops Regional Council administrator Wendy Tuckerman has written a letter in a bid to address numerous issues.

Setting record straight

I would like the opportunity to correct some of the misinformation that has been circulating within the broader community of late.

The circumstances surrounding the early departure of Mr Brian Ingram from the Young Local Representative Committee (LRC) are black and white; Mr Ingram was appointed to work with other LRC members to convey the views of the community during the administration period. 

Mr Ingram instead chose to abandon the process that was in place and act unilaterally, and in doing so, was in breach of the Terms of Reference he signed up to when he accepted the role. 

As anyone who has taken the time to engage with council on the proposed spending of the Stronger Communities Fund would know, there have been many opportunities provided for community members to have their say on the projects put forward. 

To say that council has failed to consult with the public is false. Council has held numerous forums and street-stands, while many residents have also contacted us with written submissions regarding the funding allocation, and I thank them sincerely for their input.

In terms of remuneration, the independent body responsible for setting wages for local government representatives recently handed its annual review to the state government. 

The full report can be found at www.remtribunals.nsw.gov.au but in summary, the tribunal has classified Hilltops Council as a ‘rural’ council, which in turn, means elected representatives are eligible for a maximum annual ‘fee’ of up to $11,570, with the mayor eligible for an additional amount of up to $25,250.

In relation to council’s budgetary position, as anyone who has run a business will understand, there are many complexities involved in financial decision-making; striking a strategic balance between expenses-in and expenses-out.  In council’s case, a long-term and measured approach has been adopted, combining the financial plans of the former councils in a way that ensures service levels are maintained and infrastructure is delivered in-line with community expectations. 

Fundamentally, council’s annual budgets can’t be viewed in isolation.  For example, the draft budgeted net operating result (which is not cash profits and losses as many still like to spread) for the 2016/17 (current) and 2017/18 (draft) years is $13.6 million; an average of $6.8 million surplus per year. 

Councils across NSW are now required to develop 10-year-long term financial plans to ensure that financial decisions are not short term focused. When the new council is elected they will be required to develop a long-term financial plan which will clearly demonstrate a financially sustainable position to the community. This is the same process that was undertaken by the former councils.

It’s also important for your readers to know that Hilltops Council residents have their rates protected against future increases so will pay no more for their rates than they would have under their previous councils.

Finally, despite some speculation in other media outlets to the contrary, Hilltops Council undertook an extensive open tender process to identify a provider for the new Local Government Information System (LGIS), and for some to suggest otherwise is quite simply wrong and deliberately misleading.

Wendy Tuckerman

Administrator, Hilltops Council

One million thanks

If Fred Hollows was alive today, he would extend a heartfelt thanks to the people of the Riverina for donating more than $50,000 to The Fred Hollows Foundation in the past 12 months.

The generosity has helped the foundation deliver more than one million eye operations and treatments in 2016, a record result in its 25-year history.

Gabi Hollows

The Fred Hollows Foundation