THE Ipswich Council Budget meeting last week rolled out like a well organised love fest.
Other than Nicole Jonic no one said anything negative, in fact most councillors clamored to praise the budget they’d just delivered.
Cr Jonic didn’t elaborate on her concerns about asset management issues, instead keeping her powder dry on the matter for a later date.
Interestingly on the same day in the general council meeting her bid to have an independent review established to look at the massive Venue building project blowout was defeated 4-3 with the mayor, Milligan, Doyle and Kunzelmann voting it down.
A quick overview of the budget does reveal some positives.
Getting plans underway to improve the 50-year-old Civic Centre are long overdue and council’s waste management strategy to make the city “greener” is a great initiative.
After posing for the happy snaps at the front of the council chamber the mayor made herself available to take questions from the media, which for the most part were friendly.
Her guard went up, however, when I questioned her once again about the $33m blowout in regards the CBD project which is sending the council deeper into the red.
The mayor like her counterpart, Cr Marnie Doyle, once again deflected the questions saying how good the CBD project was and even came out saying the CBD had attracted a million visitors in the past year.
That figure may be questioned by the handful of small new tenants who have bought into the idea of “build it and they will come.”
Empty tenancies are still commonplace throughout the council owned retail areas with the leasing agents who are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars unable to find anyone to take them.
The white elephant in the room at the budget meeting was that the council now has a $403m debt on its books.
Blaming the former Pisasale led council for this predicament doesn’t hold much weight, even though the mayor would like to once again to point us back to the past as she has since elected.
In 2015-16 the debt was $245m and in 2016-17 it was $252.8m.
The question she should now be answering on behalf of the current group of councillors is how council is going to pay down this debt without cutting back on services.
When I first moved to Ipswich as the editor of the QT in 2016, I bought an old Queenslander in Thorn Street.
The house was located on the original block that Ipswich pioneer George Thorn built his first cottage on in the 1850’s. We didn’t have a footpath out the front and nothing has changed.
Roads, rates and rubbish along with footpaths are still big issues in this city and while it’s all well and good to come up with great new initiatives we still need the basics looked after.
When you have just lost $33m on a project to bring a cinema into the city and the entire road maintenance program is just $48m you must start asking some significant questions.
At least this paper and one other have been asking those questions on your behalf.