Wollongong mayor defends budget; council 'is transparent' with plans

Wollongong  Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has joined councillors in rejecting claims the council is not being transparent in its budget plans.

During the discussion of the 2014-15 draft plan, which includes the budget, at Monday night's meeting, several councillors expressed concern at a number of critics of council who "didn't take time to study the issues" but claimed things were being hidden.

"It's very easy to put the boot into this organisation when you don't want to spend the time looking at the documents," Cr Ann Martin said.

Cr Janice Kershaw said council meetings gave the public a chance to see the councillors openly debate issues.

Gordon Bradbery

Gordon Bradbery

"I'm sick and tired of certain members of our community claiming that council is not transparent, and that they don't know how to have any input," she said.

At the meeting, Cr Bradbery rose from the Lord Mayor's chair and delivered a passionate speech supporting the efforts of other councillors in the development of the draft plan.

"It wasn't so much that council had been criticised," Cr Bradbery said on Tuesday, "but the amount of effort the councillors put into that process, right back to the Citizens Panel and all the detail that we had to pore over for months trying to get it right".

"It was a Goldilocks budget in so much as we are trying to satisfy everyone. But we have to find the funds to meet the backlog in infrastructure spending and renewal.

"That was what [the speech] was about, it was commending to the councillors their efforts and also thanking those who had also put in the effort to advise us - most specifically the Citizens Panel, which occurred last year."

He said he was not opposed to being criticised but wanted "legitimate criticism".

Cr Bradbery also agreed with Crs Martin and Kershaw that it was wrong to complain about a lack of transparency by council.

"One classic example is when our budget papers, our financials are published online," he said.

"They're accessible and yet we still get criticised for not being transparent. We are criticised for not having a sound fiscal responsibility, yet these things are readily available to the public and anyone with the skills can easily access those and have a look for themselves as to what the financial situation of this council is about and what we're on about.

"The baseline is that we're trying to maintain $2.5 billion of assets on a budget of around $250 million a year.

"What I'm getting at is there's nothing hidden."

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