OPINION: Candidates more informed after council info session

I RECENTLY attended an information session put on by Southern Downs Regional Council to inform potential candidates for the upcoming election of the operation and structure of council.

I think the session would have been a reality check for some of the candidates who seem to think that the only issue at stake is the budget and getting the books to balance, and to do that money has to be slashed from various policy areas, cut staff and reduce the responsibilities of council, or re-structure council.

As the CEO explained, staff that have left council in the last year or so have not been replaced, nor will any staff that leave in the future.

The remaining staff just have to take up the slack and try to deliver the same level of service as they did before.

And they're struggling.

The CEO also explained that while council is on the Queensland Treasury watch list and cannot borrow money for the next 3-4 years, if it can demonstrate good financial management and a saving every year, council has a good chance of coming off the watch list.

Good financial management does not necessarily translate to slashing of budgets and staff reductions.

It means that the budget that council's finance officers have prepared is accepted and adhered to for a full term, that savings would be made.

And herein lies a problem; the current group of councillors seem to diverge from this and make decisions that impact on the budget, delivery of services or the implementation of council policy.

The current councillors do not seem to act as a team - more a collection of individuals with their own agendas.

The next group of elected councillors need to act as a team, support council staff, as they are the professionals with the training and knowledge in areas such as corporate financial management and strategic planning.

Of course, councillors need to understand council's recommendations and ask questions, but to constantly produce counter motions or reject recommendations is just time wasting and counter productive.

Council does not make recommendations for councillor decisions without good reason and proper justification.

The next council team also needs to remember the local government principles, including good governance and ethical behaviour, and that they have been elected to serve the whole of the region's community.

I hope that those in attendance at the information sessions do well to remember that the election and being a councillor is more than just managing the budget and that the budget is not that of a small local business.

It is a multi-million-dollar budget of an entity charged with the delivery of a myriad of services to the local community.

- Leila Torrens

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