NSW Treasury Corporation has delivered a financial warning to Coffs Harbour City Council
NSW Treasury Corporation has delivered a financial warning to Coffs Harbour City Council Trevor Veale

McGrath prepares the ground for CHCC rate rise application

COFFS Harbour City Council's financial sustainability has been described by NSW Treasury Corporation (T-Corp) as "weak" with a "negative" outlook.

The report has comes as no surprise to CHCC General Manager Steve McGrath.

"It confirms what we've been saying for a number of years," he said.

"The report entirely reflects the concerns we've made clear in recent years over the need for Council to be financially sustainable and the ways we can try to achieve that goal.

"As we've said previously, after 35 years of rate pegging and cost-shifting by other levels of government, plus rising commodity costs and community expectations of a broader range of services, we simply don't have the money to provide the services we're required to do and the community has come to expect."

Council is also the custodian of around $1.8 billion worth of public assets such as roads, bridges, buildings, playgrounds and sports fields.

Over the years, funding to maintain and renew this infrastructure has been reduced as more funds are required to meet rising costs in other areas.

At last Thursday's meeting, Council endorsed an amendment by Councillor Nan Cowling to make large cuts to expenditure, targeting the ever-widening gap between income and spending.

"The message we've been putting out to the community is that if Council is to achieve a sustainable financial position and have the resources to work towards the objectives required by the community in the Coffs Harbour 2030 Community Strategic Plan, we need to look at our options.

"And in consultation with the community, make some hard decisions," Mr McGrath added.

"This is why we've been looking for a long time at a range of options.

"These include improved productivity in the way services are delivered, reductions in the current levels of service we provide, new revenue opportunities such as the commercialisation of council services and additional rate income.

"While productivity improvements and new revenue opportunities will help to bridge the gap, it is certain that Council must either reduce services or increase rates ... or most likely, a combination of both ... so we can continue to deliver services."

Mr McGrath said delaying these decisions will simply make things harder in the future.

"This is why we have been and are continuing to pursue every opportunity not only to stretch our limited resources further, but also to increase our income rather than ask the community to pay more.

"However, it's likely that we will be looking at a combination of the options open to us, including a rate rise, in the near future as we continue towards the goal of becoming financially sustainable."

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