Council is debating whether to cut the city's sports budget and ruling out the chance of an A-League game fixture coming to Coffs Harbour.
Council is debating whether to cut the city's sports budget and ruling out the chance of an A-League game fixture coming to Coffs Harbour.

Council plays hard ball with sports budget

SPORTS fans could yet get the chance to see A-League football and NRL trial games despite the council cutting funding from the budget of the sports development unit.

A rescission motion was lodged immediately after Thursday's meeting which means the council will revisit the decision to excise the $100,000 which had been allocated to stage the two games.

The vote followed spirited debate about the state of council finances and the ability of staff to rein in the proposed 2013/14 budget deficit.

That debate also shed light on a growing split within councillor ranks which one inferred was evidence of the emergence of a clique.

The first surprise for the packed gallery came with the tabling of a motion for the adoption of the draft management plan as initially submitted at the May 11 meeting.

Missing was reference to the $436,000 in funding cuts proposed by Cr Nan Cowling and supported by Crs Arkan, Degens and Townley.

The overwhelming community opposition to those cuts was expressed via 87 submissions to the draft plan

Instead Cr Arkan put an amendment to save $100,000 by not hosting the two games.

Cr Keith Rhoades argued the amendment defied the recommendations of the council's own highly experienced and professional staff. He said it was not unusual for council to start a budget in deficit and then trim throughout the year.

"Have faith in your staff. They have the runs on the board. They have done it before," Cr Rhoades said.

Cr Sally Townley said she was keen to move to reduce the deficit and was supported by Cr Degens.

"We look at a reduction that is considerably less than originally suggested. It is a significant concession," Cr Degens said.

Cr Rhoades replied that sporting events were part of the "food chain of the local economy".

Cr Bob Palmer said the budget papers themselves showed the council's investment of $80,000 in the annual touch football titles returned $3 million in local spending.

"The last six events at the stadium generated $4.6 million to local business. By taking out two events at a cost to $100,000 to council you are potentially putting at risk $3 million in spending locally," Cr Palmer said.

But it was when Cr Nan Cowling spoke in support of the amendment that it got really interesting.

Cr Rhoades had asserted that to ignore the express wishes of the community as illustrated via submissions to the draft plan, the council risked sending the wrong message to the business community.

"We have listened to the feedback and we are not taking money from the economic development unit or Coffs Coast Marketing," Cr Cowling said

Her repeated use of the word "we" in reference to various decisions had Cr Rhoades seeking a clarification.

"Have I missed some meetings because I haven't been at one's where 'we' made those decisions? Who is Cr Cowling talking about when she says 'we'?" Cr Rhoades asked.

Cr Cowling replied: "I speak to the community every day of my life," but it was when she added that "I talk to those who I think I can find a compromise with" that Cr Palmer was quick to his feet.

"Doesn't that represent a binding caucus?" he asked.

The vote which followed reinforced his point with Crs Arkan, Cowling, Degens, Sultana and Townley voting for the $100,000 cut to the sport budget.

Crs Palmer, Innes and Knight later lodged the rescission motion.



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