Vic Daly council risks its own sacking to protest cuts

DEFIANT: Victoria Daily Regional Council deputy mayor Georgina McLeod and Mayor Brian Pedwell won't accept any more funding cuts.
DEFIANT: Victoria Daily Regional Council deputy mayor Georgina McLeod and Mayor Brian Pedwell won't accept any more funding cuts.

A remote NT council has decided to risk its own sacking to make a very public protest about NT Government cutbacks.

The Victoria Daly Regional Council, based in Katherine, this week took the unprecedented step of refusing to pass its own budget knowing if they did it would lead to large job losses.

“We have had a gutful,” Mayor Brian Pedwell said today.

“We have just been told we have to wear another $800,000 cut, well we are not going to do it.

“I don’t care if we are sacked, if the NT Government want to come and get the keys, they can take over and make this work.”

Such a display of public defiance is almost unknown.

Deputy mayor Georgina McLeod said the government had never made good on promises to maintain funding to the council since demalgamation with West Daly Regional Council  three years ago and had instead imposed regular cutbacks.

Vic Daly’s $21 million budget is mostly made up of tied funding from the Federal and NT Governments which the council cannot influence.

With a rateable base of only 553 properties across its enormous 168,277 square kilometres it collects about $1 million from rates and rubbish collection charges.

Even with a proposed 15 per cent rate rise, it still cannot make ends meet.

“Then in June we were told to take another $800,000 cut, we decided we can’t do it,” deputy Mayor McLeod said.

Mayor Pedwell said he had presided over the loss of 78 council jobs in the past two years.

“They are mainly Indigenous workers, it is soul-destroying for them, their families and their communities to lose their jobs,” he said.

“We know if we passed this budget it would mean more job cuts out in the bush.”

He said the councillors had resolved to take a pay cut but with fixed lease costs like their unwanted headquarters building in Katherine, they had already “cut back to the bone”.

The NT Government has recently removed the Palmerston council and brought in administrators and Mayor Pedwell is not worried the government will do the same at Vic Daly.

“The council is trying to maintain a relationship with our remote communities, we can’t do that by cutting more and more jobs and then keeping the faith.

“We probably should have done this last year, now it’s time to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.”

Katherine Times