Internationally recognised experts from the University of New England Centre for Local Government have confirmed Port Stephens Council needs to take crucial steps to ensure its long term financial sustainability.
Late 2021, Council engaged Emeritus Professor Brian Dollery and Professor Joseph Drew to undertake a detailed review of its long term financial strategy. In March this year, Council was presented with a detailed analysis of its financial position, its operating efficiency and debt capacity.
Acting General Manager Tim Crosdale said it’s clear from the reports that Council needs to take crucial steps to make sure that it can continue to deliver services which meet the needs of our community.
“Over the past four months, our Councillors have been working closely with senior staff to review a number of options including a one off 10% increase to fees and charges, the rollout of more paid parking, potential areas of additional revenue, continued focus on cost containment and the sale of a number of potential land assets,” Mr Crosdale said.
The report from Emeritus Professor Dollery and Professor Drew identifies a range of recommendations that Council is implementing but cites that the potential for a special rate variation needs to be explored as low rates are one of the key factors impacting Councils long term financial sustainability.
As part of this independent review, Emeritus Professor Dollery and Professor Drew also assessed how efficiently Port Stephens Council operates compared to other similar Councils across Australia.
“Port Stephens Council rates are up to 35% lower than comparable Council’s. We’re proud we’ve been able to maintain low rates and still deliver high quality services for many years, but we can’t keep going this way – we need to make a real change,” Mr Crosdale said.
“In terms of efficiency, we’re close to the average score when assessed against 67 Councils – meaning we deliver services to our community efficiently and considered to provide services that are value for money.
“It’s been very beneficial to have detailed advice from experts that are internationally recognised. It’s now time we seek feedback from our local experts – our community – to determine how they’d like us to move forward.
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll present a number of options but we need our community to get involved, tell us how they would like to see Council move forward and share their feedback on this very important issue,” he added.
The community conversation will open Monday 18 July.
To view the independent experts reports and recommendations as well as a summary webinar visit portstephens.nsw.gov.au/our-funded-future