• Tony Bosworth

Councillors set to vote on rates rise this evening – and an idea to cut councillor numbers by 3...

It will be an interesting Hawkesbury Council meeting this evening as the 12 elected members decide on a rate rise, which if agreed – and it’s hard to see how it won’t be - will see us all paying more for council services, but there’s also a push to slash the number of councillors from 2024, which would certainly save some money – around $75,000 a year if it went ahead.

That one - if councillors voted for the idea - would ultimately have to get Ministerial approval or go to a referendum.

There’s also a report on the contentious and costly sullage pump-out situation, with council staff putting forward several options for its future operation, though it would be very surprising if we see any major change to save ratepayers money on that one.

And for all those on pump-out who would like to see their homes connected to a 21st century mains sewage system, the message is, don’t hold your breath. Water NSW has responded to council and effectively ruled out any new mains sewage connections in our region unless you move into one of the new housing developments – Redbank, Jacaranda or possibly Vineyard.

But what about the plan to cut councillor numbers?

This is a motion brought by independent councillor Mary Lyons-Buckett to chop the numbers down from 12 to 9.

A practical result of that – were it to be given the go-ahead, and at this stage Cllr Lyons-Buckett would like a report on the ramifications – would be the end of any elected Mayor’s casting vote.

At the moment the casting vote, which gives the Mayor a very undemocratic two votes - has been used by current Liberal Mayor Patrick Conolly in both the previous council and this one many times, most often on contentious issues. With an even number of 12 councillors the casting vote is potentially going to make an appearance, with 9, it’s not.

But Cllr Lyons-Buckett’s logic for the cut is to do with the amount of work, as she explains in her motion: “In light of the reduction in Council meetings, committee meetings, and, in 2017 the removal of Councillors’ planning powers to determine Development Applications, it is pertinent for us to consider whether 12 Councillors is an appropriate number for the future”.

If voted for by councillors it would apply from the next Council period which begins after the 2024 Local Government election, but as we say, it would still have to go for Ministerial approval or a referendum - a long way to go on this one then but it will be interesting if it gets any traction this evening.

There are a basket of other items to discuss tonight, and you can either go along at 6.30pm to watch and listen, or tune in to the Hawkesbury City Council’s You Tube channel where it will be live streamed.

Tomorrow we’ll start giving a blow-by-blow account of this evening’s discussions.

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