Clarence Valley Council mayor Jim Simmons and general manager Ashley Lindsay.
Clarence Valley Council mayor Jim Simmons and general manager Ashley Lindsay. Tim Howard

'Fit' council can cash in

THE Clarence Valley Council can cut its borrowing costs, allowing it to deliver on a wider range of projects after the NSW Government assessed it as Fit for the Future, said Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis.

He said the council would be able to apply for low-interest loans to fund much-needed infrastructure for the local community because it had demonstrated its financial sustainability into the future.

Mr Gulaptis said the Office of Local Government had carried out a reassessment of the council and determined it satisfied key financial benchmarks necessary to be granted access to the State borrowing facility to fund new and upgraded infrastructure.

"The state borrowing facility through NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp) was established in July 2015 to encourage local councils to fund infrastructure through responsible and lower-cost borrowings," Mr Gulaptis said.

"More than $350 million in loans have either been approved or are currently being assessed for approval to help councils invest in projects that are delivering benefits for local communities.

"Over 30 councils in NSW have taken advantage of the facility and it has been used to fund projects including an aged care facility, airport upgrades, water and sewerage infrastructure, sporting grounds, pools, roads, bridges and footpaths.

"Clarence Valley Council can now join these councils and benefit from cheaper, safer finance from TCorp after the Office of Local Government determined it had met the criteria of sustainability, and effective infrastructure and service management.

"Council has implemented a number of strategies to address its sustainability as part of its improvement plan. It had previously met the Government's other key financial benchmark of efficiency.

"I look forward to seeing council take advantage of the TCorp borrowing facility and the savings it can offer to help them deliver important community projects."

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons said the announcement was the culmination of years of hard work at the council and much sacrifice.

He said in 2015 the council met only two of the government's seven assessment criteria and needed to work hard over the following three years to improve its financial position.

"This has involved some difficult decisions, like reducing services, finding operational efficiencies and introducing a special rates variation (SRV)," he said. "But those decisions have put us in a position where the government believes we are financially sustainable in the long term."

General manager Ashley Lindsay said all staff needed to be congratulated on the result.

"As part of our efficiency measures we have lost the equivalent of 27 full-time staff," he said. "This has been very difficult, but I have been enormously impressed with the way everyone handled it and their commitment to the organisation and the community they serve."

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