Greg Bennett
Greg Bennett Mel McMillan

Council says finances are fine

LISMORE City mayoral candidate Greg Bennett claims council finances are in such disrepair that the Division of Local Government (DLG) has placed it under review, a claim hotly contested by council staff.

Mr Bennett is president of the Lismore Ratepayers Association and is running on a platform of improving council's finances.

He made several criticisms of council's financial management, including what he claims is a cost "blowout" on the $13.7 million Southern Trunk Main sewerage project.

Mr Bennett also criticised council for borrowing from its general fund, which he said meant the fund was not keeping up with inflation and so its value was declining in real terms.

"Council keeps quoting its borrowings at $44 million and conveniently forgetting about the $10 million they've borrowed out of their reserves," he said.

Manager of corporate services Simon Adcock described the current council as "prudent" compared with previous councils and dismissed allegations they were under review.

According to a statement by the executive director of the DLG, Lismore was one of many councils contacted over specific issues in their financial statements.

He went on to say there was "evidence that council is working to address its financial situation".

Mr Adcock rejected suggestions borrowings were abnormally high.

"The total borrowings in June 2008 were $32.2 million and in 2012 they were $44.5 million," he said.

"This increase in borrowings is mainly due to the Southern Trunk Main."

Mr Adcock also said council borrowed from its reserves because it was cheaper than the bank.

Mayor Jenny Dowell said it was naive to think councils doing major capital works should not borrow.

"Our debt ratio is within acceptable and prudent limits," Cr Dowell said.

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