Mayor backs external consultants

EVEN after recently spending $100,000 on an “unsatisfactory” master plan for Morgan Park, Mayor Ron Bellingham is adamant external consultants are essential to council’s future.

In the 2009-10 annual report, released late last week, Cr Bellingham’s review highlighted a number of plans and strategies council had adopted consultants to work on throughout the year.

According to the report, the cost of consultant services in the last financial year was $180,130.

He accepted, “Whilst it may appear to the community that council engages consultants all too regularly, to develop one plan or another, this is not the case.

“With no plan or no budget, the road ahead is unsure.

“By setting these plans in place, which are underpinned by the voice of the community, the Southern Downs will not falter.”

Cr Bellingham said the plans are community values “transposed” into workable actions.

This may not be the case for the Morgan Park Master Plan, which cost $100,000 and had the mayor and councillors asking what the payments were for after they were left disappointed with the draft options put before them, as previously reported in the Daily News.

They were told they may have to cough up extra cash if they wanted to bring the consultant back in for further discussions.

Council officials argue that consultants are necessary to plug skills and knowledge gaps in council. This has been the case with the Asset Management Plan it must have in place by December this year.

A consultant, at a cost of $43,416, was needed to complete the task, which was made harder by the deadline being shifted back a year from 2011.

The new regional differential rating system caused a wave of discontent after its introduction this year. Council paid $33,500 for the consultant that worked with council staff on creating the system, which elected officials have admitted is still flawed.

Council’s Economic Development Strategy was adopted this year, which is the region’s economic blueprint for the next five year and maps out potential growth.

The consultant cost close to $50,000 and is being praised by the elected officials, but we won’t see exactly how it is implemented until the new year.

About the strategy, Cr Bellingham said even though the region is still primarily a strong agricultural and horticultural area, other business sectors such as retail and manufacturing are moving forward.

“Council needs to drive a focused agenda to take advantage of the many economic opportunities occurring now and projected for the future,” he said.

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