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Owen Cartledge - 10 November 2015

Owen Cartledge made the following comments in the Public Access Session at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 10 November 2015.

Good morning, my name is Owen Cartledge and I am a resident of Malua Bay. I wish to make comments on two issues, not as a grumpy old man, but in a constructive positive way.

  1. Water Tanks
    For some years ESC has encouraged residents to install rainwater tanks in their homes with sizable subsidies. Also building regulations guided by BASIX often make water tanks a part of new homes. Recently the Australian press noted that a significant proportion of property owners are frightened by their tanks, do not use them, cannot get their pumps to function and are wary of the water quality. This is consistent with my own observations and other anecdotes. I wonder whether we have a misallocation of resources. I suggest a survey of a random sample of water tank owners be conducted by ESC. It is possible the results may suggest a review if ESC subsidies and possible feedback to BASIC people in Sydney.
  2. Outsourcing
    ESC management and some councillors continually talk of the need to make budget savings but little happens. At the recent public meeting in Batemans Bay I was fortunate to question the Mayor on this issue. He suggested “that savings from outsourcing were difficult to achieve because non local providers tended to win contracts for jobs over $100-150k. The mayor concluded these jobs are better kept in house in order to achieve local jobs from local money”. I found this answer quite alarming. Clearly employment of staff at Council is put ahead of both 1. Council efficiency and effectiveness and 2. The financial health of ratepayers funds with care.I suggest ESC has a positive discussion on these two competing priorities. This should be an agenda item for both Council and the Audit Committee.

Council reply

With regard to your comments about water tanks and specifically the sizable subsides, misallocation of resources and water quality, I understand that since 2011 only 14 rainwater tank rebates have been issued in Eurobodalla which is a decrease in uptake since the NSW Government rebates were withdrawn.  To be eligible for Council rebate the rainwater tanks must only be connected to the laundry, toilet and outdoor uses.  This is where the majority of water savings are achieved and there are no issues with using rainwater for these purposes.

Consistent with NSW Health recommendations, Council advises residents to use mains water for drinking and cooking if it is available.  For those areas where mains water is not available, water from a correctly maintained rainwater tank is considered suitable to drink.  Your suggestion to survey rebate recipients, is a good idea and something that we will consider undertaking.

With regards to your comments on outsourcing, Council will continue to work on achieving efficiency gains in the delivery of the Integrated Planning and Reporting suite of plans (including the Community Strategic Plan, Resourcing Plan, Delivery Program and Operational Plan).   Last financial year, Council identified savings in staffing costs and continues to undertake the organisation service review program which looks at the services Council provides and its value to the community.

By way of an example; Council undertook a review of the cleaning of public toilets through the organisation service review program.  This included a benchmarking exercise on the costs of cleaning public toilets internally or outsource the function.  As a result, Council has continued to outsource the cleaning of the public toilets as it was inefficient and cost prohibitive to undertake this function internally.  The contract was awarded via a competitive tender process.

Council will continue to develop and implement savings and productivity improvements as outlined in Council’s Fit for the Future Improvement Action Plan.