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HomeLatest NewsAnother rate rise as Council (and residents) feel the squeeze

Another rate rise as Council (and residents) feel the squeeze

Mayor Sue Heins was forced to use her casting vote to approve the Northern Beaches Council budget for 2024/25 during a meeting of Council on Tuesday 25 June.

The budget includes a rate increase of 4.9 per cent, the maximum allowable rate set by Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW (IPART). It also includes an operating deficit of just over $5 million.

Northern Beaches Council provides a summary of its income for 2024/25
Northern Beaches Council provides a summary of its costs for 2024/25

Growing pressures (including some State shifting of costs) and the rising price of materials, contracts, and construction are the chief reasons provided for the rate increase and operating deficit. Though there remains criticism that the Council’s staff costs at the executive level are too high.

This coming financial year, more than $25.2 million will be spent on Council’s CEO and Executives’ salaries with $3.2 million on Council’s vehicle pool. This should be examined, independent councillor Vincent De Luca said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

This coming financial year, more than $25.2 million will be spent on Council’s CEO and Executives’ salaries

Cr De Luca unsuccessfully put forward a motion for the CEO to address Council’s current management and staff structure, staff salaries and oncosts and any possible reforms and savings that could be implemented, among other areas, and to look at measures to ensure rates are not increased every year.

Cr Vincent de Luca.

There are 110 full-time management positions at the Council, with the CEO on $556,361 for the next financial year, five directors on a combined $2 million, 22 executive managers on a combined $6.6 million and 81 managers on a combined near $16 million.

It is common for councils to offer this level of salary to executives in order to compete with jobs in the private sector and state and federal government, and to attract competent executives.

Defending the expense, Northern Beaches Council reminded Manly Observer that it is a half a billion dollar organisation that provides a huge volume and diversity of services and infrastructure for more than 260,000 residents across 254 square kms and $5.5 billion assets under Council’s management.

This includes, as an example, managing six libraries, nine children’s centres, two aquatic centres, six galleries, arts and performance spaces, 36 community centres, 122 sportsfields, 15 rockpools and 219 playgrounds.

Photographer Simon Pratley showcases Northern Beaches rockpools beautifully on his instagram account @simonpratleyphotography

“We provide weekly domestic waste services, protect over 600 km of stormwater assets, protect and patrol 24 beaches, manage 845 km of local roads and 37 wharves, and provide a range of amenity and town centre cleaning programs,” Council stated by way of background.

“Our employee costs are consistent with industry benchmarks, and we have extremely high performing employees whose skills are regularly recognised through industry awards.”

Terroir Architects artists’ impression of the new Warriewood Community Centre.

What are the big projects underway in the next year?

Council has approved a $99 million capital works program, which includes $43 million in asset renewal and a further $56 million to deliver high priority new assets to the community.

These include:

  • $18.1m for new community facilities including Warriewood Valley community centre ($15.9m) and Warringah Recreation Centre ($1.5m)
  • $17.0m for improving road assets and resurfacing 4.8 km of roads ($7.1m)
  • $10.1m towards priority stormwater management works to reduce flooding and pollution
  • $5.5m on shared paths, including the pedestrian and cyclist bridge at Queenscliff ($2m)
  • $4.3m for new and improved footpaths across 14 suburbs, including Queenscliff Headland access ramp
  • $3.8m improving foreshores at various locations, including implementation of the Freshwater Beach masterplan ($1.5m)
  • $3.8m on new and improved reserves and playgrounds, including Frenchs Forest precinct park upgrade ($2.0m)
  • $3.2m improving sports fields and new recreation facilities
  • $3.0m improving recreational trails, including a new Manly Dam boardwalk ($2.5m)
  • $2.4m for work on Taylors Point and design of Greater Mackerel Beach and Currawong wharves
  • $1.1m improving public amenities at Freshwater Beach and West Esplanade, Manly
  • $1.0m on town centre and village upgrades
You can find out more about where Council money will go in 2024/25 by finding and clicking on this handy map on the Your Say page.

Voting against the budget were Greens Councillors Kristyn Glanville and Miranda Korzy, Your Northern Beaches’ and Wakehurst MP Michael Regan, Independent Vincent De Luca and Liberals Michael Gencher, Stuart Sprott and Karina Page.

After hours of debate (2024 is a council election year after all) the budget was approved after the mayor used her casting vote to break a tie.

There can significant fiscal issues if a budget is not passed before the new financial year.

“The 24/25 budget supports Council to get on with a range of projects that will protect and enrich life on the Northern Beaches,” Mayor Heins said.

“Australia is in a challenging fiscal environment with escalating costs in materials, contracts and construction which impact on our budget.”

“It enables us to continue to maintain and renew community facilities, prioritise road and footpath repair, improve the stormwater network, deliver new infrastructure and pilot new programs to divert more waste from landfill.

“However, Australia is in a challenging fiscal environment with escalating costs in materials, contracts and construction which impact our budget. Add ongoing cost shifting from other levels of government and a rate peg that hasn’t matched inflation over a number of years, and Council’s long term financial sustainability is under pressure.

“As we look to the future, we will need to work with our community to continue to deliver services and community infrastructure in a sustainable way.”

You can view the information that was on public display until 2 June on Council’s website, including detailed information about where the money will be spent over the next four years via this weblink.

Previous stories on rate increases can be viewed here: