I really hope someone does try to do a “Latham in Liverpool” style
hatchet job on my time as a Green at the City of Yarra, as Stephen
Mayne predicted in Crikey on Friday, but I don’t think my wish will
come true.

We inherited from the previous (100% ALP) council an organisation that
was (to the extent that any government can be said to be) ‘broke’.
Current liabilities exceeded current assets. Cash levels were at about
half the buffer needed given our ‘lumpy’ revenue sources, such as rates.

We couldn’t actually find out what the financial position was at any
given moment, because purchase order compliance was woeful – meaning
you’ll
find out about it one month after you’ve committed yourself to some
spending, rather than knowing a month before the bill arrives.

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The Greens set about fixing all this in a workman-like fashion over our first financial year.

Every measure you can come up with of financial health for a
not-for-profit entity went up, up, up, during my time on Yarra council.
And they are still improving years later because of the management
controls we put in place.

Did I mention that in our THREE budgets, the revenue take increased by
only as much as the previous council’s did in their LAST year? The real
trick was to do all this and still pursue our Green agenda. It’s all
about priorities.

Neighbourhood houses got their core funding boosted by 50%. Community
grant programs were set up totalling $1 million dollars, especially
catering for the public housing community. Bike path works went from
$40,000 a year to $250,000. We audited all of our ‘child sensitive’
sites to give them the all-clear on soil contamination. Many new street
trees were planted for the first time in years.

Along the way, we found out what assets we actually owned, their
condition and ongoing capital needs. Kinda basic for a council, that
one.

If I make it to the Victorian parliament, I’m sure I’ll be able to offer the Treasurer many helpful suggestions.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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