Council denies library ‘asset grab'

THE Lismore City Council exhausted all possible options before agreeing to become the executive council in charge of running the popular Richmond-Tweed Regional Library last Friday, the library committee's chairman and Lismore deputy mayor Isaac Smith said yesterday.

In the face of a growing community backlash against the decision, Cr Smith, Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell and finance manager Rino Santin, who will also act as the network's executive member, yesterday agreed to an extensive interview to answer what opponents have described as a ‘rushed' process and a ‘Lismore City Council asset grab'.

“We are not snatching anything,” Cr Smith said. “We are simply operating on the will of the other three constituent councils.”

Cr Dowell, who has been on the library committee since 2004, said all member councils – Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed – had been working on options for at least six years, with the support of library director Martin Field, to ensure the network complied with the Local Government Act.

“The option that the library committee would have preferred was a county council model,” she said. “But two of the councils said they wouldn't countenance that model, including Tweed, which said they would pull out. And the advice we got from the State Government was they would not countenance another county council either.

“The only other avenue was this executive council model, with one council acting as the administrator – every council has supported that.”

The model was endorsed by the library committee at its meeting on December 4 last year.

Under the model, the committee will be retained in an advisory role, but administrative functions, such as HR, finance and IT, will be carried out by Lismore.

Mr Santin said the problem with the former model was that because the committee could not be incorporated, councils were legally and financially responsible for any decision it made.

“There would be very few, if any, organisations that would wear decisions that were made that they had not been part off,” he said.

Cr Smith said it made sense for Lismore to take on the executive role due to how the network was historically established.

“The agreements have always been between Lismore and Ballina, Lismore and Byron and Lismore and Tweed – Lismore is the lynch pin.

“People believe there has been a rush to change, but very little is actually changing. All the services will be maintained, all the branches will remain open and all the staff retained.”

Cr Dowell dismissed accusations of an asset grab, saying any asset sale could only come after consultation with all member councils.

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