Challenges ahead for Dungog Council

Dungog Council’s general manager Craig Deasey said the incoming council after the September Local Government Elections is going to face “some serious challenges particularly in regard to financial sustainability”.

This time last year Mr Deasey commented on the long term financial sustainability of Dungog Shire Council as one of the most pressing issues, with no real solution in sight.

All councils in NSW are required to develop long, medium and short term plans which transition councils to the new Integrated Planning and Reporting (IPR) framework.

This new framework encourages councils, the community and other organisations to work together to plan for the future in an efficient and collaborative manner.

“The IPR process has undoubtedly been the most major transformation for Local Government since the new Local Government Act of 1993 as regards reporting and community engagement,” Mr Deasey said.

“Whilst this process has resulted in councils looking at how we engage our communities it sadly does not improve the overall outcomes for small rural councils like Dungog.

“The emphasis that is placed on asset management and longer term financial planning is welcome . . . however at the end of the day it does not provide councils with any additional sources of revenue.

“Decisions on service delivery will come from the asset management plans which at this point in time are still being developed.

“Whilst council’s expenditure focus is predominated by road and bridge infrastructure with much of the work undertaken on a reactive basis, our levels of funding and priorities for the future funding of works needs more consideration.

“Council has for many years lobbied both tiers of Government for financial support to support our ageing infrastructure, particularly the regional road network, and endeavoured to ensure that our community was kept informed.

“Yet council is constantly challenged from a financial resources perspective and in reality does not have the financial capacity to raise sufficient revenue from within its existing operations.

“Dungog Shire Council has the lowest employee base of all councils within the Hunter region, and is extremely reliant upon external revenue sources from government grants and contributions and any contraction in external funding would have disastrous consequences for the community.

“The additional external financial imposts that are being placed on Dungog Shire consumes our funding base and restricts our capacity at a rate far greater than many other rural local government areas in NSW and there has to come a time when enough is enough.”

Council’s operational plan has identified a forecast budget cash deficit of approximately $196,000.

“The budget allocations for MR301 (Clarence Town to Dungog) roadworks are the most significant capital works investment on council’s regional road network,” Mr Deasey said.

“However the majority of all capital works are focussed on roads and virtually no money has been allocated for other community assets for renewal and preservation works.

“The only glimmer of hope is coming from recent announcements by the State member (George Souris) in relation to funding works at the James Theatre.

“However there are a number of buildings that are in need of funding injections.”

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