The vote that could cost 63 council jobs

CLARENCE Valley Council has missed its State Government-imposed deadline to submit a plan to show it will become Fit for the Future.

At an extraordinary meeting in Maclean yesterday, councillors voted down a staff-prepared proposal which included an application for a 9% special rates variation.

The deadline for the council to submit its proposal to the Office of Local Government was midnight last night, which the council general manager Scott Greensill said could not be met.

The gallery was filled with council staff, who came to see the outcome, which according to information in the report to the meeting could result in the loss of 63 jobs at the council over the next nine years.

Mayor Jim Simmons, who spoke in favour of the plan, used his casting vote to defeat the proposal.

His reasoning was that a councillor missing from the meeting, Cr Greg Clancy, was a strong opponent of the SRV proposal.

"This proposal would only be voted down at the next meeting in December, so I will vote against it now," he said.

Cr Andrew Baker foreshadowed a lengthy nine-point motion during question time. An amendment from Cr Karen Toms reduced this to eight points when he agreed to remove a section relating to council's tourism services.

This became the motion on the defeat of the officer's recommendation.

A key point in his proposal was to switch the council's heavy and light fleet acquisition from ownership to leasing.

He said this would free up $35million from that council fund, which could be spent on infrastructure repairs.

Cr Richie Williamson praised Cr Baker for coming up with a plan, but damned it as a catastrophe.

He found it hard to believe the council could vote on a plan, which included proposals to spend $35million, without due consideration.

"I have sat in debates in this place where we have talked for two hours over a $900 donation to a community organisation," he said.

"Yet here we're prepared to make a decision on a $35million expenditure covered in two lines."

Cr Williamson was also concerned for the jobs of council workers.

He said removing $18 million from the council income could only result in job losses for council workers.

Cr Baker dismissed this as scaremongering.

He said spending $35million would stimulate the economy and could even lead to more jobs at the council.

"When you spend $35million on roads and the like, someone has to do the work," he said.

Cr Peter Ellem supported Cr Baker's motion.

He said the opposition to it was coming from a rump of the former council and council staff who had failed to listen adequately to the new members of council and the public.

He said the job losses and figures in the report were designed to scare councillors into voting in favour of an SRV, which he said the community could not afford.

Crs Baker, Toms, Ellem, Debrah Novak and Jim Simmons voted for the motion. Cr Jason Kingsley voted against, while Crs Williamson and Arthur Lysaught left the meeting before the vote, citing a prior engagement.

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