A NEW Toyota LandCruiser Prado worth about $60,000 has been bought for Cessnock City Council’s interim general manager, Stephen Glen, despite him being on a six-month contract.
The disclosure follows a recent NSW Treasury report saying Cessnock council ‘‘will become illiquid in 2016’’. The report rated the council as having a negative financial outlook.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Wednesday that an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation, which cleared councillors of wrongdoing, cost ratepayers up to $2 million.
ALP mayor Bob Pynsent defended the decision to buy the vehicle, saying it was normal practice.
‘‘That car is for the general manager, whether or not it’s the interim general manager,’’ Cr Pynsent said.
Independent councillor Ian Olsen questioned why Mr Glen could not use the former general manager’s vehicle or another vehicle in the council pool.
‘‘Why would you go out and purchase a $60,000 Prado when he’s only a temporary appointment,’’ Cr Olsen said.
Mr Glen made no comment.
He was appointed in May, after the departure of former general manager Lea Rosser.
Cr Pynsent said Mr Glen was entitled to the vehicle as part of his contract.
He said the previous general manager’s vehicle was sold.
‘‘We have a policy of selling vehicles when they get over 40,000 kilometres,’’ Cr Pynsent said.
‘‘The bottom line is it’s a business decision and we’ve got to be savvy to get the best deal when buying and selling,’’ he said.
The $60,000 Toyota Landcruiser Prado, one of which was bought for the temporary General manager, Mr Stephen Glen, who will be in the role for 6 months.
‘‘We have a fleet manager and sometimes he makes the call on what sort of vehicle to buy.’’
The council had more than 100 vehicles in its fleet.
‘‘The previous mayor had a Prius and they have very little resale value, so the council loses on the deal,’’ he said.
A Toyota Prado, which is a four-wheel drive, costs about $60,000 but the council received a discount as a fleet buyer.
Cr Pynsent said the exact cost was confidential.
Liberal councillor Bryce Gibson said a more conservative approach would have been to give Mr Glen a vehicle allowance.
‘‘If he was appointed full-time, then a vehicle could have been made available,’’ Cr Gibson said.
He questioned why a four-wheel drive was needed.
‘‘We could have got something more fuel-efficient and Australian made,’’ he said.
Cr Olsen said the council had to be smarter in the way it handled its finances, as it was under serious threat of amalgamation with Maitland.
‘‘We’re in dire straits and some councillors are burying their heads in the sand,’’ he said.
‘‘Financially we’ve been told we’ll be insolvent in three years.’’
Council lets developer off hook for $360,000 roadworks
CESSNOCK councillors have been criticised for allowing a developer to avoid paying $360,000 for roadworks.
Council staff said the roadworks were required with a 39-lot development in the area of Baileys Lane, Abermain, and Church Street, Weston.
A council staff report said the roadworks were needed for safety reasons and neglecting them could place a burden on council to do the work.
Mayor Bob Pynsent said he did not think it was ‘‘fair to put it on the developer’’.
In any case, he was ‘‘not convinced that amount of roadworks is necessary’’.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Wednesday that the Independent Commission Against Corruption had found poor management of developer contributions meant a ‘‘real possibility’’ the council had failed to collect adequate developer funds for infrastructure.
The ICAC report cleared councillors of major allegations, but made several recommendations for improvement.
Councillor Ian Olsen said the Baileys Lane development was a good example of what the council should not be doing.
‘‘We shouldn’t be leaving ratepayers with the bill for roadworks,’’ he said.
‘‘Other road projects would have to be pushed back.’’
But Cr Pynsent said roadworks were all about priorities.
‘‘If they want to put Baileys Lane on the works program, what are they going to take off?’’ he said.