MEMBER for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead has repeated his claim that Greater Taree City Council is "incompetent" and is urging them to "get on with the job".
Council has responded, stating his comments are "distracting to our purpose of getting on and delivering service to our community within the resources available," but council is open and transparent and anyone can ask the questions.
Mr Bromhead cited the Promoting Better Practice Program Review Report on Greater Taree City Council Local Government Division Department of Premier and Cabinet, January 2013, and Financial Sustainability of the NSW Local Government Sector - NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp) April 2013, to illustrate his position.
He suggested the council and community "look carefully at pages 17/18 of the TCorp Report and pages 39-44 of the Promoting Better Practice Review.
"These reports are publicly available online and provided the data on which I base my comments."
The Promoting Better Performance review examined the heath of council in relation to strategic planning, governance, planning and regulatory functions, asset management and financial planning, community engagement and communication, and workforce relations.
The review made 43 recommendations to GTCC of which 22 are in the 'high' category. All recommendations had a timeframe for completion by 30 June 2013.
Mr Bromhead said although it is now mid-September, council has only completed a little more than 30 of the recommendations.
Council argues that the recommendations arising from the report that Mr Bromhead said had not progressed relate to councillor participation or impending changes to various State legislation.
Mr Bromhead went on to say, "The review also identified that council's financial position is based on low liquidity levels, ongoing deficit budgeting and is restricted by asset maintenance and renewal issues.
"The review team had serious concerns about council's financial situation and was particularly interested in council's plans to resolve the issues outlined in the report.
"It is one of the worst reports ever delivered on a council in NSW."
Council say this is questionable.
"Council's experience is that we welcomed the review that is a standard process undertaken by the Division of Local Government (DLG); all councils go through this," said a spokesperson.
"Following the publishing of reports for other councils, administrators were appointed to those councils where the report outcome was unfavourable."
Another concern raised by Mr Bromhead was that for the 2012/2013 financial year council had overspent its budget by around $800,000, and that concerns about council's financial problems were compounded with the release in April 2013 of the NSW Treasury Corporation (T-Corp) report on the Financial Sustainability of Local Government, which examined all 152 NSW councils.
Mr Bromhead said the TCorp report shows GTCC has the worst financial position of any coastal council from the Hunter to the Tweed and is in the bottom two of all NSW councils.
Council said it is transparent and report above the requirements of the DLG and report monthly to councillors regarding known financial position, and that his statement about $800,000 is inaccurate.
"It was entirely possible that without the state government influence, we could have actually done far better," said a spokesperson.
Council projected a deficit budget of $1,848,171, and the end of year budget was $2,085,206, a difference of $237,035 not $800,000 as quoted by Mr Bromhead.
Council notes there were two significant unfavourable variations beyond its control; including a State government RMS allocation of $222,400 for the 2011 Natural Disaster (which council will not receive until some time this financial year, even though it incurred the cost last financial year), and a federal government FAGS variation amounting to $380,936.
"Had we received both of these amounts as we reasonably anticipated (through advice received from each of the government departments), we'd have reduced our deficit to $1,481,870. That would have been an improved financial position of $366,301."
The NSW government imposed S88 Waste Levy for 12/13 was $1,475,669 and without this additional charge council would have very nearly had a balanced budget (-$6,201).
Mr Bromhead said he was "here to help" council and its ratepayers, most of whom are his constituents, and that his comments are not about council staff but the mayor and council's leadership executive.
"I want to see council recognise its position and achieve its financial, strategic and other objectives but it can't do this by ignoring these two reports and blaming other levels of government for its own poor performance.
"But to blame the messenger for drawing attention to the reports instead of working on their recommendations is not good enough.
"I am asking council to work with the other levels of government in its local area, not against us.
"There is too much at stake to wallow in pity and point the finger of blame rather than getting on with the job council is entrusted to do," Mr Bromhead said.
He also said it was council's incompetence that was jeopardising the Northern Gateway project.
Council said information is open and transparent to the community, and any member of the public can read the council meeting minutes on the website.