Newcastle council budget to go on exhibition

A REVIEW of Newcastle City Council's operations and its draft budget will go on public exhibition, after a failed attempt by several councillors to have some of the review's more controversial recommendations for change quashed.At a meeting last night the council endorsed the exhibition from May 1 of drafts of the Fees and Charges register, the Sustainability Review report and the 2009-10 to 2011-12 Management Plan, which sets out a balanced budget in 2009 and 2010 but predicts a deficit of nearly $7 million in 2011.ALP councillor Sharon Claydon, backed by her Labor colleagues and Greens councillor Michael Osborne, had proposed that the review's recommendations to close The Loft venue and scrap Blackbutt Reserve animal exhibits and community forums be removed from the report.But the other councillors voted down the move, arguing it was inappropriate to delete recommendations before the public had the chance to comment.The review recommended closing The Loft and exploring the feasibility of selling the Wolfe Street premises. It also suggested two youth "facilitators" implement a youth services strategy across the council area.The public gallery was packed with mostly placard-bearing Loft supporters, who had earlier protested outside City Hall.Several yelled "shame" when the removal of The Loft review recommendation was voted down.Earlier, serial pest Peter Hore interrupted, wandering into the chamber shouting about The Loft and forcing a short recess while security guards were called.Labor councillors told the meeting The Loft was a success, and youth services warranted more council investment.Cr Osborne said the exhibition of the draft documents when they included no alternatives to the recommendations was a mistake, as it would suggest to the community that councillors supported the proposed changes.Cr Bob Cook said the public should get to read the full documents before councillors made decisions.The draft management plan released publicly last night was prepared in conjunction with the review.