Blunders continue: SJ Shire told to abide by Local Government Act

Blunders continue: SJ Shire told to abide by Local Government Act

Keysbrook resident Coralie Parkin hoped to have her submission opposing rates increases now heard. Photograph — Matt Devlin.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale will be forced to redo its rates process after it breached the Local Government Act.

The shire had been attempting to increase rates by five per cent but last month The Examiner revealed it had failed to follow the correct process outlined in the Act by refusing to consider any of the 394 public submissions it received.

Proposed rates increases will now have to go back before council before any increases can be imposed.

Rates form an important part of local governments’ budgets, which the shire has yet to pass.

This week The Examiner asked shire president John Erren why the shire did not consider all submissions as required by the Act but he failed to respond.

He also refused to answer questions about how the error came about and why the shire did not discover it prior to it being released to the public.

Mr Erren would not say what the shire had done to rectify the breach and would not confirm if it meant the shire would allow a new public comment period.

He also failed to comment on what sort of apology the shire would issue to ratepayers and what effect this could have on the timeframe of the shire’s budget.

He previously denied the shire had made an error, saying it did not have to consider all submissions.

Keysbrook resident Coralie Parkin, who previously made an individual submission opposing the increase, said she would put in another submission if given the chance.

She was disappointed in the handling of the matter.

Ms Parkin also attempted to voice her concern in an ordinary council meeting on June 27 but was told the shire had not received her statement by the required time and she was refused the opportunity to speak.

Restrictions were brought into council meetings in July last year requiring residents to submit their questions and statements by 2pm on the day of the meeting.

The breach follows a string of failures and mistakes by the shire including an error that saw confidential information regarding a Rivers Regional Council tender released on the shire website.

That blunder saw the RRC pursue the council for more than $78,000 in compensation.

The shire announced then chief executive Richard Gorbunow’s retirement not long after.

Questions have also been raised about the use of corporate credit cards after a freedom of information request showed a card had been used to buy more than $8740 worth of alcohol.

It was more than twice the amount the shire had previously reported but at the time Mr Erren said staff had miscalculated the cost.

Last year the shire faced criticism after it was revealed $300,000 slated for the Byford BMX track had been excluded from the 2015/16 budget.

The money had initially been put aside in the 2014/15 budget but it was not carried forward to the next budget after the project failed to attract state funding, raising questions about how the money had ‘disappeared’. Corporate and community director

Alan Hart explained the disappearance as the money ‘was no longer there’.
The track has still not been built despite initial expectations that it would be completed by mid-2015.

Shire presidents have also been no strangers to controversy with former president Keith Ellis drawing ire when he called ratepayers ‘free loaders’ and ‘keyboard morons’ in a social media group aimed at Darling Downs residents.

He stepped down as president that month following the local government elections in October last year.

• Public comments on rates ignored