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Savings of close to $1 million in draft budget

Bland Shire Council has projected savings of close to $1 million in its draft 2016-2017 Operational Plan and budget.

The draft budget builds on similar projected savings in the current financial year and meets the first major financial benchmark set out in Council’s Fit for the Future submission in its fight to continue to stand alone in the face of forced amalgamations across almost half of New South Wales Councils.

Council is currently seeking public comment on its draft Community Strategic Plan and supporting documents including the 2016-2017 Operational Plan, budget and revenue policy, Delivery Program, Asset Management Plan, Workforce Assessment Plan and Strategy and Long Term Financial Plan which were all adopted by Council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night for public exhibition.

Bland Shire Council General Manager, Ray Smith said Council faces a delicate balance between the need to achieve financial savings to ensure its survival while also striving to maintain, where possible, existing service levels.

A reduction in staffing costs of more than $630,000 per year combined with an associated reduction to Council’s fleet network and savings in plant running costs, IT costs as a result of the implementation of a new software system and identified smaller savings across most areas will allow Council to meet its savings target for the next financial year without a major impact on service delivery to the community.

The draft 2016-2017 budget also contains dramatically reduced capital expenditure.

“With the second largest road network of any council in New South Wales, aging community infrastructure and a relatively small rate base, Bland Shire Council is very conscious of the need to maintain a standard of service delivery that is acceptable to the community,” Mr Smith said.

“Local government service provision has transformed significantly over recent decades and local councils have moved beyond the traditional narrow emphasis on ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ towards broader objectives to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities.

“Over a similar period, community expectations of local government have increased while other levels of government have devolved various functions to local government that has come at cost to ratepayers.

“Council staff continues to engage in ‘best practice’ activities and are always looking to identify possible savings and how to do things more cost effectively.

“With this attitude and culture amongst the staff, the Bland Shire community, I believe, is in good hands.

“Council now eagerly awaits the next step in the Fit for the Future process which may well determine if Bland Shire Council is to be subjected to an amalgamation.”

As it works towards achieving significant saving once again in 2017-2018, Mr Smith said Council is continuing to review all work practices including an analysis of all of the feedback received from the recent road network forums held in West Wyalong, Mirrool, Barmedman, Weethalle and Ungarie.

Meanwhile, Council will also continue to lobby the State and Federal Government for increased roads funding for rural Councils.

The Local Government Grants Commission will hold a public meeting in West Wyalong on Tuesday 3 May during which Council will deliver a presentation to Commission members highlighting the significance of the Bland Shire roads network and the lack of State and Federal funding to allow Council to maintain local roads to an acceptable standard.

“This is a perfect opportunity to emphasise the need for a complete review of the Commission’s formula that allows cash rich metropolitan Councils to continue to receive Government funding at the expense of the many rural Councils within the state,” Mr Smith said.

The public meeting will be held at the Bland Shire Council Chambers at 9am on 3 May and commence with an approximate two hour presentation from the Commission about the formula it uses to calculate the allocation of Financial Assistance Grants to local Councils. The meeting is open to all members of the community.

Meanwhile, members of the community are encouraged to provide feedback on Council’s Community Strategic Plan, including the draft budget and revenue policy. Copies are available online at www.blandshire.nsw.gov.au or at Council’s Shire Street offices. People can comment online or in writing to The General Manager, Bland Shire Council, PO Box 21, West Wyalong, NSW, 2671. Submissions close at 5pm on Wednesday 18 May