Plains council in turmoil

Tom Staggard

ADELAIDE Plains Council is in turmoil following the sensational resignation of one of its senior elected members, as it struggles to adopt its annual business plan and budget for the upcoming financial year.

Experienced councillor Anne Picard resigned from her position on council last week, effective immediately.

Cr Picard confirmed to The Bunyip that she had officially stood down, but declined to comment on the reasons behind her sudden exit.

Her abrupt resignation follows the council’s failed bid to hold a meeting to formally discuss the terms of the 2017/18 Annual Business Plan and Budget.

Council deferred adopting the plan at a meeting on June 19, and called for a subsequent special meeting be held on, or before, June 23 to reconsider the item.

That deadline has since passed and, despite making several attempts to resolve the budget matter, council has adjourned business until a later date, in part due to council’s chief executive James Miller’s absence, on leave, between June 22 and July 4.

The Bunyip also understands Adelaide Plains Mayor Tony Flaherty was absent at one of the planned meetings.

Councillor Steve Jones, who attended each of the budget meetings, said ratepayers deserve better from their representative body, and that things need to change.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” he said.

“This time of year is incredibly important and I think it says a lot about the leadership of the council, that the CEO and Mayor haven’t been available to hear council’s concern about the upcoming budget.

“I’ve been in council for 16 years and both the Mayor and CEO have always been present at council to discuss the budget, until now.”

Adelaide Plains Ratepayers & Residents Association chairman John Lush also directed criticism at council’s management of the budget adoption.

“To say we are frustrated would be a huge understatement,” he said.

“We put a budget proposal to the council for consideration at the consultation meeting and didn’t even receive a response on the matter, so we’re very disappointed the budget hasn’t been delivered on time.”

Mr Lush said the council has endured four years of budget deficit, but that staff have still ensured ratepayers that the council will be debt free by 2021, without providing any validation to the claims.

“If you were to tell me you’d have $750,000 in the bank this time next year, I wouldn’t believe you until you showed me exactly how you were going to do it,” Mr Lush said.

“It’s the same story with this council; we as ratepayers believe the debt level has been too high for years, and it’s irresponsible to say it will be alright in a few years time with no figures to back that up.”

Council released a statement outlining its inability to achieve quorum at previous budget meetings, and its intention to adjourn business until next week.

“Several attempts to hold the meeting prior to the June 23 deadline, and again on Monday, June 26, would not have achieved quorum, based on elected member availability,” the statement said.

“As quorum was not reached, the Special Council Meeting was adjourned until Monday, July 10.”

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