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Manningham Council Funds a 'Futile' Project in 2013/14 Budget.

The Manningham City Council has set aside $40,000 of our money for a project that some key people are beginning to openly admit is a lost cause.

A member of Manningham Council's Doncaster Rail Advocacy Committee thinks that the State Government has made up it's mind on the Doncaster Rail Line and that further time and effort spent on this project would be an exercise in futility.

 

The Doncaster Rail Line - A lost cause.

On 16th May 2013, I attended the Doncaster Rail Study meeting at the Manningham Council offices. As you may be aware, the Doncaster Rail Study Phase 1 Recommendations Report released earlier this year was really only a draft. At this meeting the Doncaster Rail Project team sought community feedback to complete their work so they can release the final version of the report.

This meeting was not funded by the Manningham Council or the Doncaster Rail Advisory Committee. Instead it was funded by the State Government as part of the Doncaster Rail Study project. Tim Gosbell, the Doncaster Rail Project Study leader presented a summary of the draft report and invited questions.

 

One of the first questions came from a member of our own Doncaster Rail Advocacy Committee. His question was more of a statement of opinion rather than an actual question. He said that the meeting felt like 'an exercise in futility' because the State Government had already made up it's mind regarding the Doncaster Rail project. He asked in effect, "Why are we still doing this, the State Government has made a decision that the Doncaster Rail is not going ahead. What we are doing tonight is simply futile".

 

Tim Gosbell replied that he was seeking questions and not statements of belief and that the did not want to get involved in the politics of the project. He also supported his project team, saying they had done what was asked of them, done it well and he was proud of them.

 

It appears that at least one (and possibly more) members of our Doncaster Rail Advocacy Committee has come to the same conclusion as many others in the community. The Government has carefully read the report and decided that the Doncaster rail line is a good idea - but not just yet.

Instead, it has decided to increase the number of freeway lanes as an interim measure and the Doncaster Rail will have to wait for a very much later date when it will be looked at again.

 

If it is a lost cause, how much more money should our council spend on it?

Should our council spend even more money supporting a project that one or more people within their own committee believe is a lost cause and is not going to happen?

 

Please read the 2013/14 council budget. "During the 2013/14 year Council will continue its advocacy program for heavy rail to Doncaster." (2013/14 Budget page i)

"Public Transport - Advocate for Heavy Rail to Doncaster - $40,000 allocated in the budget" (2013/14 Budget page 8)

In particular, look at the description of this $40,000 project:

"Advocate for the delivery of heavy rail for Manningham through the facilitation of the Doncaster Rail Feasibility Study. $40,000" (2013/14 Budget page 17)

 

In other words, we are going to spend $40,000 of ratepayers money 'facilitating' (that is: advising, lobbying, pressuring, educating, etc.) the Doncaster Rail Feasibility Study.

Only a political activist could come up with such a strategy! The government sponsored project team would have to be silly if they did not see straight through such tactics and instead let themselves be influenced by it! I am sure they will only be interested in cold, hard facts.

Also, the question arises as to just how much 'facilitating' our Advocacy Committee has done to date while the important Recommendations Report was being prepared. When I spoke to someone on the State Government's Doncaster Rail Study project team, she was not even aware that our Advocacy Committee even existed!

 

So why is $40,000 of our money being spent?

If the state government has already made up it's mind (which it seems it has) and set it's plans in place (which it seems it has), then the allocation of this money seems simply a waste.

Is there any chance of changing the governments position? With such a comprehensive Recommendations Report in hand, which looked at all the relevant facts, I don't know what arguments our Advocacy Committee can muster to effect a change in the government's decision.

 

But $40,000 is really just a trifle!

If the Doncaster Rail Line is a 'futile project', should we throw more good money after bad, even if it is just $40,000?

Have you read the 2013-14 draft budget? Our council management are patting themselves on the back for saving $400,000 (first year) from a 12 month operating budget of $100 million and a 12 month capital works budget of $32 million. (See Councillor McLeash's speech for agenda item 12.3 starting at 7:11 into the recording for the meeting held 30 April 2013).

It appears that saving $400,000 out of a budget of $132 million deserves applause! It would be very easy to add another $40,000 to that $400,000 to make it $440,000.

 

I doubt such spending would ever happen in the private sector.

Council managers like to compare themselves to managers in the private sector and say they deserve remuneration packages comparable with managers in similarly-sized private sector organisations.

I have worked in the private sector in organisations that had similar and larger budgets. Not one of the managing directors or other managers I have worked for in the private sector would have allowed such a waste of money for a lost cause, regardless of amount. Such a waste would have been struck out of the the first draft of any budget.

I think it is about time the managers in our Council earned their remuneration package the same way managers in the private sector do.

 

20 May 2013.

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