MAYOR Emma Cole’s letter to the Voice dealing with Vincent’s progress in areas of ‘financial maturity, fiscal responsibility and asset management’ is symptomatic of the malaise at Vincent.
While the language would suit any MBA course, it reflects Vincent’s focus on plans, strategies and fancy words, without realising that they are just a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves.
The focus is on producing pretty plans and strategies rather than on outcomes that provide affordable services and facilities. These documents then tend to sit on shelves.
An example, and there are many, is the Long Term Financial Plan. This was approved in August 2020 and hasn’t been reviewed since.
When you compare how the plan stacks up against reality, we can see a certain amount of ‘drift’ in less than two years.
For example, employee costs for 2022/23 were projected to be $25.6 million. Yet the proposed budget shows employee costs of $28.8 million – some $3.3 million, or 12.5 per cent, more.
Mayor Cole mentions that the City is annually audited by the Auditor General, and this sets a very high bar on financial and organisational performance.
What she seems to forget was that the last audit identified a couple of ‘significant adverse trends’ and a number of non-compliances with the Act, one of which had been identified the year before but still had not been fixed.
She also mentions improved asset management.
Sadly, a focus seems to be on reducing asset costs by demolishing buildings. So we’ve seen the Banks Reserve Hall, the Beatty Reserve changerooms, and the Birdwood Square toilets all demolished without a replacement.
And finally, there is her mention of the once in a generation underground power project. Sadly, Vincent is unprepared. It is proposing to increase rates by 2.1 per cent to cover some of the costs even though the staff claim that they are recommending a user pays system.
This means that everybody’s rates go up by 2.1 per cent, even for those with no prospect of underground power in the short to medium term, or without any plan to provide it in the longer term.
Businesses are being slugged even though only residential areas benefit. And even worse, the ratepayers in the Highgate East area are being asked to contribute even though they paid all the costs when their power was put underground about 15 years ago.
I’m sorry, but the claim that Vincent has achieved financial maturity is too much of an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ leap of faith. I think if you look closely, you’ll see an organisation caught with their pants down, displaying unsightly undies, held up with safety pins. And I apologise for leaving you with that image.
Ed’s note: Mr Maier was a Vincent councillor from 2005-2013.