All NSW Councils are required by legislation to have a Four Year Delivery Program and an Annual Operational Plan to show the community how their rates are being spent and to build trust and confidence that their Council is spending their funds wisely.
The Local Government Act requires the General Manager to report on the progress of the Annual Operational Plan and the Delivery Program to the elected Council and the Community every six months. The aim of these reports is also intended to show that the approved Budget is being spent as promised to the community.
Most Council’s throughout the State report on their Operational Plan separately to the Delivery Program, we assume for greater transparency and clarity. However MidCoast Council claims:
“The Delivery Program and the Operational Plan (DPOP) have been combined into one document for ease of reading for the community, and to clearly indicate the link to the Community Strategic Plan (CSP).”
The past three MidCoast annual Reports on the progress of the Delivery Program and the Operational Plan shows there is greater accountability and transparency when the Reports are separated as the results can be easily tracked and there is no confusion on what has been delayed, deferred, or withdrawn.
According to MidCoast Council – “Operational Plans are Council’s commitment to their community on how and where funds will be expended and what services and activities the community can expect to be delivered during the year. These plans link to the CSP, being the long-term aspirations of the community.”
Therefore how did things shape up?
2022/23 Financial Year
Original Budget Expenditure: $279,516,475
Projected Budget Expenditure : $301,374,878 (24 May 2023).
Council reported that 53 (or 84.13%) of 63 actions were completed. And only 10 (or 15.87%) were delayed or deferred and 1% withdrawn. But when you get down into the fine print, Council then admits that there were actually 91 proposed actions to be undertaken in the year and that 28 actions almost 1/3 were either excluded, deferred or withdrawn. With the actual result being 53/91 or only 58% were completed.
2021/22 Financial Year
Original Budget Expenditure was: $276,996,000.
Actual Budget Expenditure was: $265,729,000.
Council reported that 216 actions (or 77%) of 281 actions were completed. And 63 (or 22%) were delayed and 1% revised or withdrawn. Again, when you read the fine print originally there were 308 actual actions, so the actual percentage completed was only 70%.
2020/21 Financial Year
Original Budget Expenditure was: $261,733,000
Actual Budget Expenditure was: $278,108,000.
Curiously, in the 2020/21 Report Council did not identify the proposed number of actions for that year. The stated figures were only percentages: 76.5% Completed, 22.5% Delayed and 1% Revised or Withdrawn. Not a very good result.
Sooner or later Council will be finally forced to address its floundering financial position. As the black hole deepens, they will be coming to the community to discuss affordability and service levels. Perhaps council should be reminded that their delivery of services has not been very productive nor proficient and the first step is to make Council operate more efficiently.