The Lithgow City Council mid-term annual report confirms that the Council is substantially on track to deliver the full program of services and outcomes planned for the 2022/23 year.
General Manager, Craig Butler said that he was pleased with progress made in the July – December period. “65% of actions identified in the 2022/23 Operational Plan are on track, 13% are not yet due to commence, 16% have been completed. Although 6% are off schedule we will be working to ensure completion by June”.
“The Council’s administration has balanced delivery of the 2022/23 Operational Plan, strategically positioning the council and the city for the future and dealing with emerging issues” continued Mr Butler. “There has been an ongoing response to natural disasters (with further disaster declarations in July and September 2022) and a focus on addressing Council’s financial sustainability challenge. Workforce resilience has also been a major challenge because there is a general shortage of eligible workers available to fill vacancies in areas such as planning, building certification, finance and engineering”.
Key outcomes delivered over the July – December 2022 period include –
- Completion of extensive community engagement on two financial sustainability options. In November 2022, Council resolved to notify IPART of its intention to lodge an SRV application.
- Achievement of planned budget strategies as part of Council’s Financial Sustainability Plan. In the first six months, $731K of employment cost savings have been achieved. Council also saved money on its workers compensation premium, as well as LED street lighting and solar panel projects. The Financial Sustainability Plan includes a longer-term Productivity Improvements Program.
- Effective management of cashflow to fund major natural disaster works and grant funded projects. Action was taken to initiate a $3.5M working capital short-term loan facility to cover the anticipated high cash outflows throughout the 2022/23 year. The pace of works has been carefully matched with available cash and the timing of natural disaster and grant milestone claims.
- The Waste Strategy for 2022-2026 was finalised and adopted. This Strategy will guide Council’s commitment to achieving best practice standards for waste management and resource recovery. Consultation has also commenced with the community on the introduction of a FOGO service well ahead of the 2030 deadline. The city’s landfills and transfer stations are being well-managed and continuously improved.
- While wet weather has caused delays, the Cullen Bullen Sewerage Scheme was progressed with reticulation in the households completed while the Sewerage Treatment Plant is constructed. This project will greatly improve the health and environmental conditions in the locality.
- Projects and programs for water delivery to the local government area to ensure long term water security and supply for the changing industry and economy were progressed – the Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy and the Clarence to Wallerawang Pipeline project.
- Significant resources were directed to rebuilding an alternate access to the Wolgan Valley. This response has required the engagement of expert geotechnical consultants, project managers from Public Works NSW, local contract labour, and deep engagement with the Wolgan community, indigenous stakeholders, and government. Alongside the completion of detailed slope risk assessments and construction of detour routes, Council has delivered 4WD training courses, convoy escorts along National Park trails and garbage removal services, amongst many other services, to best assist this community.
- Council also added numerous projects to its endorsed Operational Plan to introduce a comprehensive disaster response program. To date, Council has delivered over $18 million in disaster recovery projects. However, continued wet weather has resulted in some delays to the delivery of this program. Council must also up-front most of the costs before recovering government disaster recovery funding. This has introduced significant challenges i.e., balancing the planned with the unplanned and ensuring these projects are delivered while maintaining the financial sustainability of the organisation.
- Major projects included timber bridges being replaced in the Capertee Valley, improving the safety of school zones with enhanced signage and line marking, replacing the roofs on community halls, and developing best-practice asset management plans.
- A number of strategic planning projects of significance were advanced or the subject of priority action including the Marrangaroo where the Council continues to work with Transport for NSW to determine the most cost effective and efficient road design. A number of local housing initiatives directed at ensuring diversity and supply of housing are adequate have also been advanced. Negotiations are occurring for the land-use planning of key sites such as the former Wallerawang Power Station Site and Portland Foundations. There was successful negotiation of Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPSs) for a renewable energy (SSD) project with the $2m funds to be used for economic transition and local infrastructure.
- Successful applications were made for grant funding for Lake Pillans and Blast Furnace improvements (>$1M)
- Major events included Halloween for the entire Main Street, Made in Lithgow installation in Cook Street Plaza, Live and Local program, Weeklong Caravan Muster (injection of ~$200K into the local economy), Union Theatre activation, Visitor Information Centre rebranding as Seven Valleys
The July – December 2022 Progress Report and the 2022/23 Operational Plan are available for viewing on Council’s website www.council.lithgow.com/ipr