Allegations by Cr McGregor disputed - 28/06/2007Cr Murray Hughes has disputed many of the issues raised by Cr Don McGregor in his statement (Wanganui Chronicle, 28 June 2007) regarding the funding cut for the Whanganui Arts, Culture and Heritage Development Trust.
"The vote to cut funding was unanimous and I believe the meeting minutes may indicate Cr McGregor moved it," Cr Hughes said.
"The question of consultation, or lack of, was not raised. It was an Annual Plan being considered and no organisation is guaranteed ongoing funding. Councillors must listen to and read all submissions and then make their decisions without pre-determination. Therefore, advance consultation with any organisation is impossible."
Cr Hughes said he believed the Whanganui Arts, Culture and Heritage Development Trust should have been aware funding was decided annually as last year it endeavoured to obtain funding for three years. This was declined and reasons given included a reminder of their contractual responsibilities to the Council and ratepayers.
"Mayor Laws requested Cr Higgie to bring the issue to her Community Development Committee with a view to Council employing a suitable person, so for Cr McGregor to state he intends to speak with Cr Higgie is confusing as what he has proposed has already been agreed," Cr Hughes said.
"For Cr McGregor to imply collusion between the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and two Council officers is astounding. As mentioned earlier, it was Cr McGregor who moved the motion to withdraw funding. A discussion took place and the motion was passed.
"Since funding was removed, I understand the Chief Executive has devoted many hours and bent over backwards to assist the Trust during difficult times.
"This funding cut raises the question of exactly which organisations receive ratepayer funds. Every dollar given is another dollar of rates Council must collect. Some organisations see Council as their first and easiest source for funds when funding is often available from other organisations."
With a funding review due in 2008, it could be an opportune time to consult with ratepayers through suburban meetings, and possibly a referendum, regarding the amount of their rates the Council spends on activities and organisations used by a minority of ratepayers, Cr Hughes said.
"We do have an obligation for cultural and social well-beings but it could be argued that this is covered with funding for the Museum, Library and sports grounds."