Newsletter EDITION No.56 AUGUST 2019

Lyn Baker I had a request for a radio interview a couple of weeks ago. The request came in response to the City of Albany’s rate rise, and the radio guy was after my comments, and especially the rate rise which the Shire of Corrigin was going to impose. As we are yet to bring down our 2019 – 2020 budget I wasn’t able to give him an answer to that question, but it raised some concerns which I have had for some time. Namely, the lack of understanding of the complexity of Local Government and the inability of some journalists to see the big picture and convey the truth to the public, instead of focussing on rate rises, newsworthy as they are. Local government provides an enormous range of services to the community. Some of these services would normally be provided by the State Government or by private enterprise, such as health and medical services. However, for their own reasons those bodies have stood aside from those services, leaving a gap which only Local Government can fill. Unfortunately, there is no extra funding available to provide these essential services. Not only does the community have expectations that those services will continue to be provided, but so does the State Government. Squeezing these ever-rising expectations into our budgets is increasingly difficult for small rural Councils, especially since our ability to raise revenue outside of rates is severely limited. However, we strive to provide for our community because we don’t believe that living outside of the larger centres should put residents at a great disadvantage. We all deserve to be able to play our sport, visit our library or a doctor – just like our metropolitan counterparts. There are always criticisms of Local Government, especially at this time of the year. Some of this criticism is well deserved – there have been instances where governance has been sadly lacking, sometimes deliberately, so that unscrupulous persons have defrauded the organisation of thousands of dollars. There have been instances where “shortcuts” have been taken, leading to unfair or illegal decisions being made. We can read about these on the Corruption and Crime Commission website ( ) (along with many other investigations). Consequently, the level of scrutiny and complexity has increased in recent years, although some things have been in place forever. Councillors operate under a Code of Conduct which not only outlines Conduct, but also the outcomes of breaches of that Code. Hence, Councillors and Senior Staff must, initially and annually, prepare an Annual Return, which details relevant financial information. We must also fill in a Related Parties Return which reports things such as “my son owns the local fuel depot” or “my wife runs the local catering business”. We must also declare an interest if a decision asked of Council will be of financial benefit, or even detriment, to us. And we must declare any (non-family) gifts over the value of $50. Failure to declare such an interest, or gift, or to submit the Returns mentioned constitutes a breach of the Code of Conduct and will incur possible sanction. Members are entitled to Sitting (or Meeting) Fees, which are set by the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal, as are CEO salaries. The Shire of Corrigin is a Band 4 Local Government and our fees, and the CEO salary, must be within the prescribed range for Band 4 Councils. Our Councillor Sitting Fees are at the very bottom of that range, with the President and Deputy President receiving an additional allowance. So, budget time is not an opportunity for Elected Members to line their own pockets, but a time to provide the services expected by ratepayers. Much of what Local Government does is in the realm of “giving” without “receiving” eg roads, libraries, medical services, to mention just a few. Swimming pools, playing fields, halls and public buildings bring in small amounts but nowhere near what it costs to provide them. As well, our audit costs have more than doubled due to the State Government imposing a much greater level of scrutiny on all Local Governments’ finances and processes. This now costs the Shire of Corrigin $45,000 – compared to $16,000 two years ago. So the challenge for our incoming Council, and those that follow, will be to align those increasing expectations with a balanced budget – as it always has been. To continue to provide services to our wonderful community and to be scrupulously, squeaky clean, by endlessly and unceasingly raising the bar on processes and transparency. Lyn LYN BAKER Email: Phone: 9065 7053 MESSAGE FROM SHIRE PRESIDENT Strengthening our community now to grow and prosper into the future w w w . c o r r i g i n . w a . g o v . a u