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May 17, 2021

Library takeover a ‘shameful failure’: former head

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[author]Luis Feliu[/author]

The former head of the Richmond Tweed Regional Library (RTRL) has hit out at a ‘malicious gossip’ campaign against him by some Tweed shire councillors and staff he says is aimed at improperly influencing the impending decision on the library service’s future management.

In a passionate address to Tweed Shire Council’s access meeting last Thursday, Martin Field highlighted how the service had become one of the most cost-effective, efficient and high-performing library services in the state during his 14-year term as director before Lismore City Council made a controversial move to take it over last year.

That move is on hold after some of the four regional councils rejected it or decided to explore other options to run the service, with new state legislation now in place allowing it. Tweed council has supported the takeover in principle.

Mr Field told councillors he had to correct the ‘disgraceful and scurrilous’ allegations about the operations and investment practices of the service while he was its director, saying they were ‘always and invariably in line’ with local government rules and regulations.

He said at the time, the public had access to his quarterly investment statements, also given to the councils, through the RTRL’s website until Lismore Council ‘quite improperly removed them because they showed up Lismore’s subsequent very poor financial performance’.

‘I believe this disgraceful slander has arisen because it is a fact that the RTRL investments often performed better than Lismore City Council’s investments.

‘Unlike Lismore, Tweed and many other NSW councils, the RTRL did not lose one cent in rash US-based investments.

‘Since Lismore took over, there have been no quarterly statements whatsoever; Tweed shire is being very remiss in requiring no proper accounting whatsoever for the nearly $2 million in library funds it hands to Lismore every year.’

Mr Field said Lismore was failing to pay Tweed and the two other councils of the RTRL the full benefits of the service’s total investments.

‘Over $30,000 was lost in the first year alone from this source. Lismore itself has estimated a shortfall of $40,000 in the current financial year. Why are Tweed shire councillors so complacent about throwing away $30–40,000 every year?’ he asked.

‘Is Tweed shire aware that Lismore has already warned that it may make a charge for running the RTRL? Just a charge of five per cent would be $250,000 pa.

‘Is Tweed shire aware of a large increase in staff costs when RTRL staff are transferred to the Lismore salary scheme? After over 18 months staff are still waiting for this transfer.

‘Is Tweed shire aware that casual staff costs at RTRL have increased by more than 30 per cent because of Lismore inefficiencies in replacing staff who are leaving and because Lismore insists on using an expensive Lismore employment agency quite unnecessarily?

’Lismore running the RTRL has already increased basic operating costs by over $100,000 and you are turning a blind eye to this, while indulging in slanderous gossip?

‘Tweed shire has a responsibility to ensure that ratepayers’ monies are spent wisely and efficiently. As far as the management of the library service is concerned, it is failing shamefully. Telling lies to slander the efficient and cost effective RTRL won’t help.’

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