Mayor uses casting vote to consult community


Residents could be hit with a 14 per cent or higher rate rise in two years under a proposed 10-year financial plan.

Northern Beaches Council is facing a $5.8 million deficit for the 2024/5 financial year, and is on track to fail a State Government benchmark set for councils. A proposed 10.6 per cent rate rise in 2025/6 – in addition to a forecast cap of 3.4 per cent – would give council an extra $20 million, but would still not be enough to fund new assets, including the Warriewood Community Centre, to the tune of $10.4 million.

The issue has caused a schism in council, with many councillors at the April 30 meeting declaring that unless staff found other efficiencies, they would vote against the proposed budget this month. At that meeting, councillors were split on a vote to put the proposed budget out for public consultation, with the Liberals voting as a block against it, as well as former mayor Michael Regan.

Cr Regan, who is also the state member for Wakehurst, told Peninsula Living (PL) that he had voted against the budget exhibition out of ‘frustration’ with the Liberal councillors. “I’m appalled at their lack of transparency and lack of alternative plan.

“They should be upfront with what services they want to cut and what staff they want to cut.”

Mr Regan said it was important to have an honest conversation with the community, and explain that the budget was a ‘true’ picture of what it would cost to maintain service levels and operations, following years of paying the debts of the previous Manly and Pittwater councils. “(Residents need to understand that) if you want change, then you’re going to have to cut something or increase rates.”

Mayor Sue Heins, who used her casting vote at the April meeting to put the plan out for consultation, told PL: “Council is not immune to growing pressure on our financial sustainability and the rising costs of materials, contracts and construction. Our draft budget focuses on prioritising projects and services that will support and strengthen our community and our environment.”

Almost $30 million in ‘efficiencies’ have already been reached by council over the years since it was formed, with a change in waste contracts one area of reform.

Any move to increase 2025/6 rates above the cap would involve further community consultation before an application to the regulator IPART.

Council will vote on the 2024/5 budget at its June meeting.