I write in response to Cr Campbell’s letter (The Courier, June 25) where he expressed the view that I was not constructive, that I had my own agenda and that I quoted Council numbers out of context.

As quoted by Alice in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ using her poor English, things seem to be getting “curiouser and curiouser.”

My comments were restricted to the Annual Operating Budget, not the Capital Budget, the only such item he mentioned was the giving up of $60,000 in fees throwing open the pools over summer.

A commendable policy that was, however it is not numerically significant given the magnitude the council has fallen short of in the budget target, which is the best part of $2 million the last two years in row.

Try and run a business successfully with those figures.

It is true these are difficult times with drought and now COVID-19, but council has certainty in its income that ratepayers and residents do not.

Therefore council should be more accurate and transparent for the public to see what is going on, after all they are our elected custodians.

The shires to the north and south of Narrabri, namely Moree and Gunnedah, face the same difficulties we do, so it is of use to compare their Operating Budget results to ours.

The year just finishing – 2020, Narrabri says it will fall short $1,875,000, if you allow an adjustment with the Financial Assistance Grant, Moree will fall short by $398,793 and Gunnedah will exceed their budget by $576,618.

These figures exclude capital grants and are from the council websites.

The above figures clearly demonstrate that our neighbour councils are able to stick to the Operating Budget with far greater discipline than Narrabri.

This is highly likely an indication of bigger problems under the surface that I refer to in my submission to council.

The staff are both councils’ biggest expense and greatest asset, the way they are managed is crucial to the council’s overall performance and the figures for workers’ compensation are alarming, they are more than twice as bad as our peer councils.

Space does not permit an examination of that here but the reasons behind such poor figures should be of concern to all ratepayers and residents, as is the constant turnover in staff.

These are not numbers out of context, nor am I being anything but constructive, as I do believe there are plenty of opportunities for Narrabri to grow.

However I do have an agenda, it is for Narrabri to be run as a ‘best practice’ council and not fall behind its peer councils.

We pay hard earned money in our rates and are entitled to the expectation they are spent with the same skill and efficiency as Moree and Gunnedah.

Cr Campbell should be commended for leading the move for the rate freeze, I would hope after a good look at these numbers, he will come to a similar view to I, that the interests of ratepayers and residents rank ahead of the possible embarrassment of putting performance to scrutiny.

However, it seems to me the reality is that the council is currently operating as though “nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t”, quoting Alice in her imaginary world in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, quoted courtesy of Preston CJ presiding, in the recent Armidale Regional Council case in the Land and Environment Court, that the council lost.

Greg Lamont, Boggabri

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