Mr Darren Kruse
In 1942 the great British wartime leader Winston Churchill said “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." Churchill was speaking just after the British had routed the German forces at Alamein, driving German troops out of Egypt.
I’m certainly no Churchill, but as I write this in early May, it is also perhaps the end of the beginning of the greatest test this country has faced since World War 2. In COVID-19 we confront an unseen, faceless, flagless foe that has blasted our economy and our Australian way of life. Who amongst us foresaw in January that this would be the year of isolation, no sport, closed public spaces, huge job losses and economic damage on a scale unseen since the Great Depression of the 1920s? Very few, and certainly not myself.
However, in adversity there is always opportunity. The opportunity to show leadership. In crisis, leaders either emerge or are exposed. We only need to compare our superb national Cabinet response to the chaos of the USA to see the difference leadership makes. Decades of dogma about balanced budgets at all costs have been thrown out the window. No government at any level will likely run a surplus this year – City of Mitcham included. I have no doubt that to provide the needed support for the residents and businesses that need it, we will very likely go into a temporary deficit.
By the time you read this, the Agenda of Tuesday 12 May will have been debated in the Chamber. It’s very significant because of two items – the budget and the long-awaited Blackwood Hub that will incorporate a new library, a community centre and a service delivery centre at Waite Reserve.
On 12 May we vote on which of six options to base the public consultation for the Draft 2020/21 Annual Business Plan and Budget. This year, three of six options put our ~$60M budget into varying degrees of deficit and one is neutral. All contain targeted rates relief for those that need it with a targeted rate reduction via a 10 per cent rate rebate (decrease) in 2020/21 for all COVID-19 impacted ratepayers, estimated at a cost of $1.4 million.
While all budget options provide varying degrees of rates relief, I will be supporting the options that incorporate the Blackwood Hub. We have had years of discussion on this. We now have second stage drawings – and they are magnificent. I look forward to the community feedback on those, but also the budgeting. It’s a ~ $20M new build, but we already have $5M from a Commonwealth Grant and we will have a surplus library to sell once it is built. We will look to the SA Government to contribute – as they did for the new Mitcham Library.
I hope my fellow Councillors will show leadership and build for our future in the face of COVID-19. We need your feedback. It’s not every year we propose a $20M new intergenerational build in the heart of Blackwood.