Council in good position, despite COVID challenges

Wellington Shire Council administrative headquarters.

David Braithwaite

David Braithwaite
THE pandemic has affected Wellington Shire Council’s bottom line for the 2020-21 financial year.
With council still to complete its final 2020-21 financial report, it has recorded an interim surplus of $9.82 million, up from the $9.03 million forecast in the budget.
Compared to the adopted budget, council had $7.8 million more in income and $7 million more in expenditure.
Council had received half of its 2021-22 government grants ($7.7 million) early, and an unbudgeted $1.4 million from the state government for Working for Victoria initiatives to help stimulate the economy.
Income from user fees was down $2.1 million from budget, much of it relating to some council services and facilities being closed because of lockdowns and restrictions.
Council also repaid unused state government grant funding of $4.3 million for the abandoned shared services initiative with East Gippsland, South Gippsland and Bass Coast councils.
Councillor Gayle Maher said council was able to collect $63 million in rates and charges.
“This in light of staff working in a difficult space, particularly being mindful of hardship that is considered on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
“From a financial stability aspect, we’re doing quite well, despite many things not being business as usual.”
Council had spent $34.4 million on capital works.
“Completion of the Cameron Sporting Complex, Roads to Recovery projects, kerb and channel works, capital improvement to buildings and rec reserves, and footpath and bike path projects are just some of the works that have been undertaken,” Cr Maher said.
“Currently, there are 11 projects in pre-planning and 36 projects underway for completion this financial year.
“What we have seen is a complex capital works rollout in the face of wet weather, wet winter, complexities of community consultation in an ever-changing environment due to COVID, and the increasing scarcity of materials and even tradespersons, also directly attributed to COVID.”
In the three months to June 30, the multi-year Maffra central business district streetscape renewal project and the reconstruction of Ingles Bridge, Devon North, were completed.
Special charge scheme works in Guthridge Parade, Sale, and Port Albert were due to be completed this month, as was the upgrade of Bond St, Sale.
Public toilet replacement projects at Hiawatha and Stead St, Sale, were completed in June.