Editorial: Council “Confusion” Clarified

Filed in Just In by July 28, 2023

Council has confirmed they were “confused” by my questions pertaining to $37million in loans, which is why they couldn’t answer.

Related: Editorial: $37million unexplained.

Greg McDonald, general manager, claimed in email that I didn’t provide a page number for the line item therefore they simply didn’t understand what I was talking about.

However, when I first raised the question in email in May, I specified a page number. And if all Councillors and Council staff were “confused” when I continued to ask the question, why didn’t they simply ask and their confusion could have been cleared up immediately?

Mr McDonald, clarified the $37million in loan line item was an “error” and it had been fixed in subsequent versions. So they knew about the error, fixed the error, but were confused when I referred to it, so couldn’t answer me. Ok.

It was further claimed by Council that the correction was clear in subsequent versions of the document. However, like former Cr Sue Abbott, I’ve experienced a pattern of being unable to access information and documents from Council. I deliberately continued to search for “updated” and “final” budget documents prior to the June Council meeting, but I only had access to the document which was publicly available. The document on the Council website, was exactly the same and the only version I could access in the Council system. And I’m sure that was just due to some kind of “confusion” in the system too.

Constituent confusion:

Two key issues have been raised with me by constituents relating to this matter:

1: “I find it weird that $37million was the loan figure and $36million is what Council is waiting on from the federal government for the Merriwa-Willow Tree Road.”

Ok, sure, that is a weird coincidence. But I assured the confused constituent, Council has been absolutely clear now that the loan figure was simply an error and the only reason Council couldn’t clarify the issue for me was because they were confused what $37million in loans I was referring to.

2: “Don’t you find it odd that in that same section of the financials (see screenshot below) there is also $35million plus asset sales which add up to $37million? I reckon they were having an each-way bet here, then claimed the loans were an error when scrutinised.” 

This was raised by one of the financial people who have been reviewing Council’s financials. I gently explained to him, that he must be “confused” by speculating about such a wild idea. Further, he should consider the Council’s track record and reputation for transparency and accountability and rest assured. Even when Council were found to have illegally shifted money around previously, it had not been deliberate, as Council clearly explained afterwards they had done that “inadvertently”. 



So residents can also rest assured, this was all a simple Council error and while Council was confused, it has all now been fixed with the “delete” key.

But repaying the $32million in loans that we already have and sustaining ongoing massive losses at the airport, sale yards and other projects…well that won’t be as easy to resolve as a simple deletion.

Kind Regards,

Cr Elizabeth Flaherty

All of the above are my perspectives, opinions and beliefs as a Councillor on the Upper Hunter Shire Council, are my own, which may not (in fact probably don’t) reflect Council’s position, but which as an elected representative I am supported in law to freely express.

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