Need to know more important than ever

Council's special rate variation to allow the continuing operation of six shire swimming pools into the future, its new communications and consultation strategy and its budget all seem to be inexorably linked.

They are all subjects that have been discussed - some at length - over recent months.

Bega Valley Shire Council is one of just three councils (one metropolitan and two rural) in NSW that have notified the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of their intention to apply for a special variation to increase their general income above the rate peg in 2020-21.

They have until February 10 to consult with their communities and submit their applications for a special variation increase. IPART will be accepting submissions from February 10. The Sydney council is Georges River. The regional and rural councils are Bega Valley and Lismore.

Good communications from council will be vital if it wishes to get the SRV approved.

Clearly the budget is not in a great position and if we are to support an SRV, good communications will be needed to help understand council's real position and how the SRV will help.

It would be nice to hear too how the money that is currently being used for pools will be spent in the future.

The council minutes state that because of the major renewal requirements for Bega and Cobargo pools within the first 10 years of the SRV, council will not see any reduction in reliance on the general fund for pools during the first two years of the SRV.

If no grant for Bega pool renewal is forthcoming, a $9-12m loan would certainly suck all of the renewal portion of the SRV (if not more) in repayments for quite a few years.

Which is maybe why the minutes went on to state that "at the point in time where the demand on general fund for pools is reduced due to the SRV, that any reduction in expenditure from the general fund for pools is transferred to a reserve restricted for the purpose of funding existing infrastructure asset renewals for critical assets".

Which brings us back to communication and what that statement might mean in reality.

IPART in assessing a council's request for an SRV asks council to demonstrate the need for the additional income, provide evidence of adequate community awareness and an assessment of the reasonableness of the increase and impact on ratepayers.