Like all savvy businesses, councils are taking a close look at their budgets, seeing if there are ways of improving their bottom lines.
Prudent financial management is something which should concern all ratepayers – after all, it is their money – and also every councillor as they are elected to act in the best interests of residents.
Sometimes the decisions that have to be made are far from clear cut.
Take, for example, the debate that has raged across this city for the past fortnight over the cost of running the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. On the one hand, there has been pressure on Maitland City Council to rein in the cost blow-outs that have plagued the gallery in recent months; on the other, there are those who believe the residents deserve a first-class gallery, even if it is a drain on council’s coffers.
Newcastle City Council is in a similar belt-tightening mode, having proposed to make staff redundant and shutting or selling assets including Beresfield’s pool and golf course.
With the quest for greater efficiency driving a review of local government boundaries across NSW, it would seen the time is right to investigate whether Beresfield should become part of the City of Maitland. The idea is not new and there are likely to be strongly held views in both camps; similarly, there are people who are passionately for and against Greta being part of Maitland instead of Cessnock.
One question that has to be asked is whether Beresfield residents identify more with Maitland than they do with Newcastle? Many Maitland people use Beresfield’s pool and golfing facilities and it would be a travesty if either, or both, were closed.
While Maitland council prides itself on its “can-do” attitude, it is already facing an uphill battle with unprecedented growth.
There are many residents who believe that Maitland council needs to get its own affairs in order before taking on anything extra to manage.