Soaring legal and consultancy costs have prompted Blue Mountains councillors to demand greater transparency when it comes to setting future budgets.
A motion penned by Ward 1 Clrs Robert Stock and Don McGregor was unanimously backed on February 19 and will result in a report detailing the cost and nature of all council’s consultancies and labour hire engagements in the last six months.
An additional report will examine council’s approach to these budget areas and identify how expenditure can be reduced.
The resolution noted council’s total cost for legal and other consultancies for this financial year is likely to reach between $1.6 million and $2 million.
Spending up to December 31 was $419,236 for consultancies and $370,183 in legal fees.
Clr Stock said when searching for savings in preparing next financial year’s budget, council “should be looking at every aspect”.
He said ways of reducing outsourcing of project work should be made a priority, noting “we have a very talented staff”.
“Given council’s limited revenues it would be very good to find some possible efficiencies in council’s operations that might free up some funds for improved services.
“The consultancy budget looks like a good place to start.”
Clr McGregor said there should be more thought applied by council when it comes to engaging labour hire companies.
“I endorse the concerns of Clr Stock in that we need to watch every dollar spent,” Clr McGregor said.
Councillors are supporting a “multi-pronged” financial strategy, which includes implementing service reviews and engaging the community on affordable and acceptable levels of service, given “council must live within its means and manage risks responsibly”.