Wollongong rates concern 'brushed aside'

A residents' group opposing service cuts has accused Wollongong City Council of brushing  aside community concerns after their convener was banned from addressing tonight’s council meeting.

Save Our Services Wollongong convener Stephen Spencer will not be allowed to voice residents’ concerns about the council’s controversial financial sustainability review tonight because he  had already addressed the council on the matter late last year. 

Council policy stipulates nobody is allowed to address the council on the same matter more than once.

If the group had nominated a different member to address tonight’s meeting, as suggested by council on two occasions, they would have had the opportunity to voice their concerns.

The council’s future finances will be back in the spotlight following more than two months of community consultation in which nearly 800 residents shared their views.

If councillors support a budget recommendation put forward by council staff, Wollongong rates will rise more than 21per cent over the next three years.

The staff proposal also includes $1.5million in service cuts and a minimum $500,000 worth of fee increases, which could include parking fee rises, increases to fitness trainer fees and price rises at some of the council’s pools.

Save Our Services Wollongong group members have been vocal critics of the council’s ‘‘citizens’ panel’’ and last December staged a protest outside of council chambers.

They demanded the council retain a number of services, including the Unanderra Library, Lakeside Leisure Centre and the city’s ocean pools.

Mr Spencer said group members will still attend tonight’s meeting and make their opinions heard.

‘‘Save Our Services Wollongong comes to the conclusion that council does not like the role we have been playing in trying to bring council to account properly to the community for the cuts in services and a proposed extra special rate rise it proposes,’’ he said.

‘‘We will be there, in the chamber, making our message loud and clear.’’


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