While the 2014 Local Government NSW conference has received some bad press about snoozing and boozing councillors, Forbes delegates came back with only positive feedback from the three-day event in Coffs Harbour.
Forbes mayor Ron Penny, councillors Jeff Nicholson, Dennis Booth and Graham Falconer and general manager Brian Steffen attended the conference along with their peers from 152 councils across NSW.
Mr Steffen said it was an excellent event with a lot achieved over the three days.
“It was probably the best conference I’ve been to – there was a lot of good robust debate and voting on motions,” he said.
“We had addresses from the premier and a full agenda of motions…although we didn’t get to all of them. There should be more time dedicated to getting to the motions.”
The majority of motions discussed at the conference focused on state and federal funding issues and the big topic was the Fit for the Future reform package.
Mr Steffen said one motion heavily debated was the location of the conference, with most people preferring to have it in Sydney where they would have access to ministers and the public service to talk to.
Councillors also unanimously voted to lobby the federal government to abandon freezing the indexation of financial assistance grants to council, which they say would cost councils $288 million.
Mr Steffen said the federal government’s decision to freeze the Consumer Price Index on grants for four years is an issue and means that council needs to budget for the changes.
“We’ve budgeted quite conservatively because we didn’t know how much we were getting before the financial assistance grants came out, so our costs don’t rise as much,” he said.
“However if the community asks us to do something additional we’d have to reconsider our budget.”
Other motions voted on were rating exemptions for state-owned businesses, utility privatisation, the decentralisation policy and having playing powers returned to local government with the Local Environmental Planning Policy reviews.
“All in all there were a lot of good discussions about the future of local government in NSW,” Mr Steffen said.
In response to the reports of bad behaviour of councillors at the conference, Mr Steffen said he didn’t witness any misbehaviour.
“I didn’t see any of that…it wasn’t rampant,” he said.
“There may have been people that overindulged but they were in the minority.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.