Opinion: Have your say on Newcastle council's plans for the future

NEWCASTLE council's 2014-15 draft operating plan and budget are now on public exhibition until June 4.

The council is keen to share its position and plans at information sessions scheduled for May 28, 2.30pm to 4.30pm at Wallsend library, and May 29, from 6pm to 8pm at Newcastle City Hall.

The council started 2013-14 with a projected $29 million deficit.

The actual deficit is likely to be $20 million due to an organisational restructure to reduce ongoing costs.

The 2014-15 deficit is projected to improve even further to $11.8 million.

Excellent progress has been made but more work needs to be done.

The council must now focus on asset rationalisation.

Much of the budget is spent maintaining assets such as buildings, roads, drains, toilet blocks, sporting facilities, playgrounds, artworks and even trees.

Many assets in Newcastle's portfolio, valued at $1.6 billion, need significant maintenance and Newcastle cannot afford to maintain all of them.

Instead, the council will invest in key assets, fund new assets and dispose of assets of limited community value.

The reduced deficit combined with asset sales will make more funds available to repair ageing infrastructure.

The civic site west of Civic Theatre is a great example.

Clearing and selling the site reduced maintenance costs while creating positive cash flow and stimulating urban renewal.

By Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy

By Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy