COMMENT: AT 334 pages long, Orange City Council’s annual report is by no means light reading and is unlikely to be on the holiday reading lists of many residents.
But it is an interesting snapshot of the council’s diverse work over the year and presents the cold hard financial figures in black and white for all to see.
The spectre of amalgamation looms over the heads of many of the state’s 152 councils, with the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s final recommendations expected imminently.
It means now more than ever all councils must prove their financial viability, and makes it harder than ever to sweep adverse business practices or outcomes aside.
Although Orange’s high residential rates will always remain a sore point for many, the surrounding council areas are catching up.
And the decision made many years ago to increase rates would appear to be a wise move when you look at the council’s current bottom line and costly capital works programs of recent years.
Although the implications of the total overhaul of local government are yet to be revealed for Orange and the rest of the state, this year’s annual report is the first presented under the state government’s new uniform system for councils to integrate their planning, budgeting and reporting.
The new system was designed to improve councils’ long-term management, but has done little to make the jargon-rich and wordy world of local government any easier for the average resident to understand.
Councils, like all organisations, are always accused of spinning figures the way they want them.
While comparisons of other institutions like schools are now demystified through services like MySchool, the work of the local government industry remains clouded in technical detail that makes it virtually impossible for the average citizen to decipher.