Letter To The Editor: Council’s Secret Society

Filed in editorletters, Just In, Opinions by September 14, 2020
THE surprise sale of the Doctor accommodation units in Scone is yet another sad example of the secret society operating within Council, in my view.
It demonstrates a total lack of moral and social compass. Changing the jockey has done nothing.
Yet another bad decision!
These units were purchased with grant assistance under an agreed partnership to provide accommodation in Scone for registrars and trainee doctors.
This grant complemented the grant received for the Scone Medical Practice building, also to provide specialist training and study areas to allow local Doctors to support rural trained doctors for the Upper Hunter and rural areas of the State.
Councils proposed sale blatantly breaks this agreement, without consultation, without community knowledge.
What’s next – the Medical Centre?
I am advised that the Council decision to sell the units was actually made at the October 2019 meeting, but a check shows the apparent decision is disgustingly disguised in the “confidential” resolutions and non-compliant minutes/reporting of the resolutions from that meeting.
There were 14 resolutions at this meeting where the Council failed to publicly report any detail of each of the matters resolved.
Council was aware this was non-compliant at this time, as I had called out the same breach of Council’s own Code of Meeting Practice from a prior meeting.
Now we find out what item 8 was about, what about the other 13 secret decisions!
What else is being sold or bought!
Council must come clean and fix up prior non-compliant reporting before the community gets more surprises.
Remember the Secret Sale of the former Council Chambers building, no public consultation, no tenders or advertising, just a secret deal. Nothing changes apparently.
The Office of Local Government shared my concern and instructed Council to comply to regulations, however the Council did not rectify prior breaches and continues to breach, in my view.
The draft minutes from the July meeting were posted on Council’s website without any record of the resignation of the former General Manager as contained on the audio recording, when Cr Brown suggested no record was required.
It was only rectified it appears, after my objections.
The current minutes are also in breach in my view, when Council adopted a new Policy on Land Matters, rescinded the prior policy, without any community engagement as would be normal practice, disguised in Land Committee minutes, with no public debate or knowledge of why the change of policy, making it easier for Council to buy and sell land assets without scrutiny. Why?
The Committee minutes are a series of dot point headings without any detail of the actions taken on each item.
This does not comply with public accountability standards in my view.
The Secret Society remains.
What does Council intend to do with the proceeds of its surprise dealings, perhaps it is to offset the losses from its overcapitalised Saleyards.
They lost $33,700 last month alone and predicted to lose $404,618 this financial year, bringing total losses since the construction over 2 years to $1.026 million.
Perhaps it’s to pay for the losses on Campbell’s Corner building, which will also lose money this year, without the $450,000 “urgent” repair bill, without the COVID discounted rents, while they pay rent on the existing building, what a mess!
Perhaps it’s to pay just part of the massive costly mistakes on the Willow Tree/Merriwa Road that will cost Millions more than the original grant works. Who is accountable, what a mess!
Perhaps it’s to pay for the losses on the Airport projects, with a break even point in 16 years time, based on the most optimistic new review findings, which means very many years of loss after loss— at ratepayers expense, what a farce!
The only thing for the Council to do is to stop the sale process, negotiate with the Medical Practice for doctors accommodation to be retained.
The same goes for any other towns or medical centres provided for community benefit.
It’s time for an Administrator, this Council is dysfunctional and off the rails!
Daryl Dutton is a resident and ratepayer of Scone, he is also a former General Manager of the Upper Hunter Shire Council.

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