LAKE Macquarie City Council spends $10,000 a day on consultants, almost triple what it was forking out six years ago.
Ratepayers will foot a $3.6million consultancy bill this financial year, up from $1.3million in 2005-06.
The lion’s share of the expenditure will go on environmental consultancy work, with the total bill rising 1300per cent this year from $156,000 in 2005-06 to $2million in 2010-11. A council report said it was ‘‘necessary consultancy work’’.
Big spending increases on consultants for environmental work since 2009 were for several reasons, the report said.
These included examining ‘‘waste-management options’’, the future of Awaba tip, a coastal and foreshore wetland assessment and a sea-level rise adaptation project.
The report was contained in the council’s submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for its rate rise proposal.
The council wants the tribunal to approve a residential rate increase of 70per cent over seven years and a 90per cent rise for businesses over the same period.
The report showed the council’s operating costs increased from about $90million in 1999-2000 to about $170million in 2010-11.
A graph published in the report showed council spending rose sharply from 2006, the year general manager Brian Bell arrived, to last year.
‘‘Many of these operational costs are direct costs and non-discretionary in nature and unable to be avoided,’’ the report said.
These included salaries and wages, which increased about 3.5per cent or $3million a year in line with a state award.
The report said the council had one ‘‘middle manager’’ for every 60 staff.
The council had increased the number of full-time equivalent staff from about 810 in 2004-05 to about 885 in 2010-11, a graph in the report showed. Despite that, the council’s Workforce Management Strategy said the council had 941 full-time equivalent staff in 2010, including temporary staff.
The council’s Human Resource Strategy said it was ‘‘one of the largest employers in the Lower Hunter with more than 1100 staff operating across 20 departments’’.
Employee costs were more than $70million a year, about 41per cent of operating costs.
‘‘We have been financially responsible in containing our operating costs,’’ the report said.
‘‘Operating costs continue to increase without an equivalent increase in our income.’’
The report said the council ‘‘needs to significantly increase its income to provide sufficient funds to cover our costs, or significantly cut our future expenditure’’.