Southern Downs Regional Council will discuss draft budget submissions in a special meeting this morning.
Southern Downs Regional Council will discuss draft budget submissions in a special meeting this morning. Kerri Moore

'GLOVES ARE OFF': Tensions boil over in budget boycott

MAYOR Tracy Dobie has refuted claims the draft budget won't be changed after a group of Southern Downs residents announced they would boycott the "pointless" consultation process.

The Southern Downs Residents Action Group has decided not to participate in consultation on the 2018-19 draft budget, claiming councillors have rarely acted on past submissions.

Secretary Andrew Gale said gone were the days when councillors represented the community at the council.

He said the elected officials were now disconnected and represented the council instead.

Mr Gale claims a sitting councillor told him a previous submission he made during a consultation period was impossible because the budget was "set in stone" months earlier.

"I was pretty excited when we had this opportunity to consult a couple of years ago and it's really disappointing when you find out that things that you've gone to a lot of time to prepare can't be done," he said.

"We've always been respectful and tried to keep the discussion dignified but it's time to take the gloves off and call a spade a spade."

Mr Gale called on the council to be more open and transparent and conduct public consultation at the time the budget was being put together, rather than providing "lip service" and no action.

But Mayor Tracy Dobie refuted the claim, saying changes had been made in the past after community consultation.

"Last year we didn't go ahead with our proposed waste management charges because of the feedback we received during the public consultation," Cr Dobie said.

Funding for Snowflakes in Stanthorpe was also granted as a result of public feedback.

Cr Dobie said each submission was viewed by the councillors to determine whether they were relevant, valid and could be incorporated.

Councillors have started shopping centre visits to make themselves more available to residents and conduct community meetings, she said.

"Every time we have a community meeting there would be 4, 5, 6, 7 requirements that come out of that, requests for action and those are actioned and follow ups are provided to individuals," Cr Dobie said.

Cr Yve Stocks disagreed the council was disconnected from ratepayers, saying it was the most consultative council had been.

"We're out and about all the time...it's not only the public consultations we go to, we go to different towns around the region," Cr Stocks said.



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