THE SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council has blown more than $13,000 of ratepayers’ money on an app that only a handful of people use.
That’s just one example of “ill-advised council spending” raised by a ratepayer, who took the floor during the SDRC’s monthly meeting in Stanthorpe yesterday.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into renovating council headquarters, conducting worm farm workshops, mulching classes and parking surveys were some of the other ways council threw money on non-essentials recently.
Mayor Peter Blundell, CEO David Keenan, council directors and councillors were left red faced after Save our Shire Action Group member Sue Johnson raised the examples in a scathing address questioning their spending priorities.
“Mr Mayor, you proudly announced an app to be downloaded and used to report council problems,” Ms Johnson said during the public forum.
“When asked how much the app cost you did not know, but assured us that it would pay for itself.”
Mrs Johnson said the cost of the app was $60,000 and that in the first 12 months just nine people used it.
“In the same period 14,000 phone calls were received,” she said.
“This says to me that the app has been a complete waste of money and that they want to speak with people, not an app.”
CEO David Keenan disagreed with the $60,000 figure and said the app had cost just over $13,000.
He did not disagree with the accuracy on any other council spending that Ms Johnson raised.
“You cannot continue to increase rates so that you can borrow to fund unnecessary and wasteful spending,” Ms Johnson told councillors.
With council debt at $31 million, and Cr Blundell guaranteeing rates would be raised this year, the July budget remains at the forefront of the SDRC’s monthly meetings.
Curiously, soon after Ms Johnson’s address, Cr Blundell sent out a press release congratulating the council on the app it had just been taken to task over.
It went something like this: “Southern Downs Regional Council’s new app is proving a success with more residents using ‘Fix It’ to lodge customer requests.”
Cr Blundell said: “Council is really happy with the amount of people who have decided to use the app and encourage more people to make use of its many features.”
No mention was made of how many people used the app but we are told it’s still only a handful.
Massive council debt write-offs, the controversial appointment of a board to a new tourism body, and backpacker road safety initiatives were also on yesterday’s agenda. Stay tuned.
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