Port-Macquarie Hastings Council dismissed

NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Lynch has acted on a Public Inquiry Commissioner’s recommendation to dismiss Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.

Mr Lynch said in a statement that Commissioner Frank Willan had made the recommendation to dismiss the council over its handling of the Port Macquarie Cultural and Entertainment Centre, or Glasshouse, following a Public Inquiry that started in July 2007. Warringah Council administrator Dick Persson was today (February 28) appointed administrator.

According to a statement by the Minister, the key points of the report are:
• overall, the costs of the Glasshouse project grew from about $6 million or $7 million in April 2002 to $41.7 million – six or seven times the initial budget.
• councillors and staff failed to impose adequate financial controls over the project.
• councillors have excused their failures upon the basis that financial issues were “operational issues” falling outside their role.
• both the councillors and staff have failed to demonstrate prudent project management.
• the real cost of operating the Glasshouse will require a major amount of community subsidy.
• the council failed to consult the wider community in the planning and funding for the Glasshouse.    
• the council has constantly misled the community about the Glasshouse project.              
• the theatre and conference components of the Glasshouse cannot generate enough income to cover the long-term costs of operations and the annual financial shortfall will consume the bulk of the 2004 and 2005 special rate variations.
• it is difficult to see the current council learning from its past mistakes.

Mr Persson will start immediately as administrator to serve for four years.

In contrast to Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Mr Lynch said he had not received a report on Wollongong City Council.
He said Department of Local Government Director-General Garry Payne had written to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Commissioner (ICAC) Jerrold Cripps to confirm the NSW Government would act on any recommendations the ICAC made in relation to Wollongong City Council.

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