Wednesday, 16 February 2016
WESTERN Victoria MP Simon Ramsay has questioned the Greater Geelong City Council’s decision to give away up to $1 million of land while facing financial struggles.
Councillors on Tuesday passed a motion to donate two parcels of Ocean Grove land to local disability services provider Karingal, ignoring the city’s shaky financial situation.
“The council is simply in no position to be gifting land, given its financial position,” Mr Ramsay said.
“It was an odd decision given the council’s long term strategy of maximising the value of council assets to ratepayers and to reduce debt.
“The land in question is valued between $750,000 and $1 million, while the company that was to be a recipient has an annual turnover of $100 million.
“I don’t think there is any dispute that more investment into services provided by Karingal is needed, but given a significant investment by all tiers of government into disability services, ratepayers could well question if the City of Greater Geelong is in a position to gift millions of dollars of council-owned land to multi-million dollar companies.
“Meanwhile, the council has a Christmas tree that is suggested to cost $500,000 a year to install, dismantle, maintain and store, while also seeking an exemption from rate capping and increasing its debt portfolio.
“With the City of Greater Geelong currently under investigation for poor governance, I would have thought councillors would take a more cautionary approach in the use of ratepayer assets and decisions that impact the city’s long term sustainability.
“Once you set a precedent the council will open itself up to all sort of requests from needy causes, but it’s an issue about responsible governance, regardless of who it is helping.
“It’s not the council’s role to provide stimulus for developers by granting free gifts of land, which should be treated like any other council asset.”