We urge all readers to consider the following:

  • Burke’s parting shot at Lipshutz & Hyams?
  • The animosity between councillors?
  • How our money is spent and the rationale for any cogent decision making?
  • The overall governance within Glen Eira


Item 9.16 – The Budget

Pilling moved to accept as printed. Lipshutz seconded.

PILLING: claimed that council had ‘taken note’ of the submissions to the budget. Summarised some of the other ‘capital works expenditure’. Said the budget was ‘challenging’ given ratecapping and for council to ‘continue our environmental initiatives’ and other projects. Thought that the budget was ‘steady as usual’ in this ‘environment’ but council would ‘continue to build our community facilities’. Stated that some changes had been made as a result of submissions.

LIPSHUTZ: said that many residents might think that all council does is about roads, rates and rubbish.  Went on to outline the things that ‘I have noted’ like day care. The Federal government cut funding and council is now ‘making up that shortfall’.  Council’s parks and gardens are rated highest and that’s because ‘we spend money on that’. Since 2005 environmental issues have improved even thought ‘some of us have been dragged kicking and screaming’ to this position.  Said it was a great ‘credit to this administration that we have such great parks and gardens’. Unlike other councils they don’t spend money on ‘weird and wonderful things’. Glen Eira doesn’t do this and the Auditor General tells them that the Chief Financial Officer is ‘one of the best’ in local government. Council got submissions and they could have ignored these but they didn’t like the dancing group who only wanted air conditioning. So ‘we listened to them and we thought it was appropriate’.

MAGEE: budget time is difficult because they have expenses and x amount of funds. Said that there are ‘smaller things in the budget’ that make the difference – like run ups for a cricket club so kids won’t fall over when they run up to bowl. For him the most pleasing was about the skatepark which will replace a ‘dilapidated’ facility and ‘how many of our youth’ use this. Council is now ‘putting in $550,000 for a new facility’. This will ‘transform’ the park, ‘as GESAC has done’ into a ‘large activity centre’. Stated that the perception of these kids is that they are ‘second class society’ but that’s not true. These kids are ‘very polite’ and ‘take care of other kids’. This has been ‘something that has been very, very dear to me for many years’ so he is very pleased with the budget allocation. Admitted that ‘at one stage we were looking at moving it’ but with the $550,000 the skateboarders will be delighted.

DELAHUNTY: said that ‘there’s a lot to like’ but a ‘couple of things’ she’s not too ‘pleased about’.  Thought that ‘some projects’ need ‘clarification on’ like the Booran Reserve costs. Asked Swabey to ‘address’ the total costs and how they are ‘going to spend the money’.

SWABEY: said that the reservoir is $600,000 over budget and that the ‘timing between 2015/16 and 2016/17 has changed’. They ‘anticipated spending a lot more money in 2015/16’ but this ‘didn’t eventuate’ so the budget of May 2015/16 was readjusted to become ‘$4m in 2016/17 rather than $930’.

DELAHUNTY:  said that she thought the over budget was ‘marginal’ and that in ‘5 years time’ we ‘won’t remember the hurt on our hip-pocket’ and it will be a ‘boost’ to open space. Strongly endorsed this aspect and ‘sustainability’ of the budget. Not happy though with increasing child care fees and shouldn’t ‘be looked at from the premise of how much do we want to subsidise’. Thought that the role of local government is to provide the best staff and facilities and should be ‘affordable’ to people.  They don’t ‘hear about subsidisation in libraries’ or roads, so it shouldn’t apply here.  Thought the increase was based on an incorrect ‘premise’.  Went on to say that what really ‘sticks under my fingernails, excuse the pun’ is the funding for the Wellness Centre at GESAC. This was ‘part of the original concept’ and was ‘to provide nail services’ and seen as ‘ancillary services’. Nothing ‘wrong with that as a concept’ but the budget proposes to spend ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ to ‘finish off a Wellness Centre’ that ‘basically operates as a commercial entity’ and with ‘no social benefit’. ‘I’m quite angry about it’. ‘It’s so far beyond what we should be doing here’. Said it would be more acceptable if it ‘had some sort of social purpose to it’  like ‘apprenticeships’ or ‘giving out low rent schemes to people’.  Said that ‘what we are doing is setting up competition to traders’ in the area and ‘using ratepayers’ money’.

Delahunty then proposed the following amendment  – that the funding for the Wellness Centre be removed. Sounness seconded.

DELAHUNTY: said she ‘understands that it was part of the original concept’  but it’s not fair on local traders and doesn’t think that this is ‘in any way necessary’. There’s no ‘community space’, ‘social’ benefit and ‘is completely at odds with our role’ as a local government. ‘At the very least’ if this goes ahead then it ‘should have a social purpose’. Claimed that the money ‘could be better spent’ such as on the ‘pensioner rebate’ plus a ‘myriad of things we could do’ with the money.

SOUNNESS: asked Swabey if this is voted in whether the budget has to be changed?

SWABEY: the budget has to go to the Minister by 30th June and they would have to ‘reconfigure the whole budget’.

SOUNNESS: ‘assumed’ that this wouldn’t have a ‘major impact’ on the budget in that it was a ‘minor item’.

SWABEY: ‘$250,000’ is a ‘relatively small amount’.

SOUNNESS: asked whether ‘this would have any impact on the operation of GESAC?’

BURKE: stated that it would ‘make it more economically sound’.

LIPSHUTZ: as chairman of the Pools Committee they ‘looked’ at a ‘whole host of things’ like having a gym. There are other gyms in the area but they thought that ‘having a gym would make it viable’. ‘It was not simply the swimming pool’. People ‘need to change’. The Wellness Centre will provide ‘pampering’ like ‘massages’ and ‘those things are important’.  They were told that putting in a gym will mean that ‘they will grow’ and ‘people’s thinking has changed’ and they want other things too like the Wellness Centre. ‘We want’ GESAC to be ‘a movable thing’, ‘we want it to be dynamic’.  Shouldn’t think that officers and councillors said ‘hey bingo. Let’s have a Wellness Centre’ – ‘we had meetings on that’. Down the track ‘we will change again’. Said it’s ‘a bit late to come along now and say let’s change it’ after the ‘whole budget has been discussed for many months’.

DELAHUNTY – interrupted with her objection to Pilling that Lipshutz is ‘misrepresenting’ her in that ‘I’ve kept this consistent line of argument the entire time’.

PILLING: ‘I think there’s reason to slightly correct that’.

LIPSHUTZ: Delahunty has been consistent but at this ‘late hour’ when ‘we’ve gone uphill and downdale’ it is ‘important that GESAC is successful’.

HYAMS: said that one of Delahunty’s points was that the money from removing this from the budget could be spent on other things but ‘the point of this, is to ultimately make money’. So they should be ‘talking about the money we will be getting in years to come’. So the ‘financial argument’ is in ‘favour of doing this’. Said that in providing this facility they are providing ‘what the users of GESAC want us to provide there’ and it ‘adds to the whole GESAC experience’.  Said that he would be ‘disappointed’ after ‘having this as a plan for so long’ it was rejected.

MAGEE: has ‘sympathy and support’ for Delahunty but ‘she lost me’ when she spoke about ‘having to be consistent’. At the time of planning GESAC there was ‘a company called AquaSwim’ and council put ‘in a pool which directly affected’ this company. The gym that went into GESAC was also ‘directly opposite the biggest gymnasium in East Bentleigh’. They did this because they were putting together a plan that ‘would not be draining money from council’ with the old pools. They had the philosophy of ‘what do we do to make it profitable?’ They’ve also got a café there which is in competition with other cafes. ‘For GESAC to continue to be the success it is, it is well worth’ this project because if ‘that’s what the GESAC community want and we need to fund that’ and ‘it’s not costing the ratepayers any money’ since ‘GESAC is paying its own way’.

DELAHUNTY: wanted clarification on Magee’s point that ‘GESAC is paying its own way’ and it’s ‘got a project cost of $450,000’ and for the next budget an ‘estimated income of $155,000’ so ‘in your opinion (to Burke) is this paying its own way?’

BURKE: replied that the figures show a ‘payback’.

DELAHUNTY: Lipshutz is saying that ‘this is a long conceived’ program under ‘the advice of the officers’ and wanted to know whether ‘that advice has changed’.

BURKE: admitted that council is under ‘financial pressure’ and ‘as officers’ they looked at the budget and ‘the pressures we were facing’ and officers were of the mind to ‘defer expenditure’ and ‘the councillor group took a different view – they asked us to actually proceed’.

DELAHUNTY: wanted to make the point and that ‘Lipshutz understands’ that ‘we are now acting in contrary to the advice of officers and not in concert with that’.

PILLING – asked who the question was directed at and Delahunty said Lipshutz.

LIPSHUTZ: ‘Council officers don’t make decisions. Councillors make decisons’.

DELAHUNTY: raised a point of order as to whether Lipshutz ‘understands’ that ‘we are now acting in contradiction..

PILLING: started saying that ‘to be fair’.  Delahunty responded that she wanted Lipshutz ‘to be relevant to the question’.

LIPSHUTZ: said that ‘councillors seek advice but ultimately decision making is ours’.  So even though officers have ‘given advice’ it is ‘we who make the decision’. ‘Sometimes we even make decisions that are opposed to officer’ advice. ‘That is appropriate’. Said that ‘our role is to make decisions and to seek advice and to determine whether that advice is appropriate’.