If only Blue Mountains folk realised the cushy salaries enjoyed by government staff at Blue Mountains City Council.
Recent decisions by councillors have approved a 4% pay rise to council staff on top of them earning already above average wages. Only one councillor voted against the pay increases because council simply cannot afford the staff costs of $43.4 million, representing 44% of council’s entire budget. The general manager reaps a third of a million by himself and this is the Blue Mountains, not Woollahra.
And the new rate rises by Blue Mountains City Council are not just to line the pockets of privileged staff, but to fund the budget blow out of the Liberal Party’s big grandiose Springwood Theatre & Community Hub, including the public relations consultant.
How much are all the helicopter aerial photo updates costing ratepayers?
It started off as the Springwood Civic Centre. The pitch to the community was for a “Springwood Community and Cultural Facilities Upgrade”. Now it has become branded “The Blue Mountains Theatre & Community Hub.”
It is situated just opposite a new Springwood Sports Club which already provides multiple function spaces and most of the facilities that council’s new hub promises. Council’s new hub, still under construction, is a multi-million dollar pet project extravagance of former Liberal Mayor big Daniel Myles. Its construction budget is $15 million, the same value of the entire annual capital works programme for the Blue Mountains.
Big Mayor Myles (left)
So ‘Myles Hub’ is essentially a ratepayer-funded duplication of what already exists across Macquarie Road. Not only that, it turns out that Council has underestimated the operating costs to run the hub after it opens. The initial budget of $150,000 was provided for the first five months of the centre’s operation. That’s blown out to $200,000 and its annual forecast operating cost for the 2015-16 financial year is $400,000, so far.
It is a repeat of the operational cost blowout of the sister Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba, an extravagant pet project of another former mayor. It too continues to drain ratepayers of $2 million a year. The build itself cost $50 million.
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill has said “I am confident council can continue to manage its budget responsibly, factoring in the ongoing management and operating costs of (Springwood’s) community and cultural facility,” he said, whatever we decide to call it.
Pollies building Australia – fluoro vests, hard hats and photo opportunities.
Councillors have since started withdrawing and deferring up to six capital projects in 2014-15 worth a total of $1 million to put in reserve for “renewal of high risk assets, high risk asset failures and key community priorities to be implemented in 2015-16”. These are other code names for Big Myles Hub.
And then there is Council’s new rate increase (special variation) required to overcome a forecast operating deficit. The newly decided 4% rate hike apparently is based upon “the community’s ability to pay”. They must think they’re still living in Sydney.
Blue Mountains businesses face jumps in council rates to an annual $4164 by 2019. No wonder so many are going to the wall.