Maitland Regional Art Gallery concerns set aside as council finally adopts budget plans

Maitland Regional Art Gallery.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

It started with a bang, but ended with little more than a hiss.

After weeks of conjecture over its exact makeup, Maitland councillors finally agreed on a 2018/19 budget and 2018-2021 delivery program at Tuesday’s meeting. 

In front of a packed chamber, councillors unanimously voted to adopt the plans laid out in the council papers. 

It was the third time the matter had returned to council, and came after the Penfold Independents and members of the Liberal Party had moved substantial amendments at meetings on May 22 and April 24. 

Among the most eye-catching elements of the amendments was a proposal to freeze funding for the Maitland Regional Art Gallery at 2017/18 levels, which generated a significant amount of community discussion. 

The proposal was ultimately knocked back at the May 22 meeting, with Mayor Loretta Baker using her casting vote to break a six-councillor-a-side deadlock

However, anyone expecting last minute theatrics on Tuesday would have left disappointed. 

Cr Philip Penfold - who had been at the forefront of the proposed amendments – was the first to vote in favour of the latest budget.

The Central Ward councillor thanked council officers and general manager David Evans for their work, saying that while there was a small number of items he wished were included, such as council participating in Maitland 200 celebrations, he was comfortable voting for it.

Councillor Robert Aitchison compared the plans to “a bag of jelly beans”  which included “a few dark purple jelly beans which no one likes”. 

While happy with the budget, Cr Aitchison said he was disappointed they weren’t able to include Labor’s election plans to provide a $80-100 rate reduction, which were knocked back in April.  

Cr Baker welcomed the amount of positive community correspondence council had received about the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. 

“I am so happy that we did (have a debate) because thankfully the Maitland community responded...people have a very heightened sense of what they want in this city, and they sat down and wrote passionately about it...so it was very different to the dull thud of the keyboard warrior,” Cr Baker said. 

It capped the end to the most memorable budget saga Maitland City Council has experienced in recent memory.