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Mayor makes last ditch promises as suspension looms

WEDNESDAY'S Fraser Coast council meeting was the last of 2017 and possibly the last chaired by Chris Loft as mayor.

Despite facing a pending suspension and day in court, the embattled mayor is showing no signs he's going out quietly.

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With only six days left to show cause why he should not be suspended by Local Government Minister Mark Furner, Cr Loft pulled out all the stops with a zero per cent rate rise promise for next year's budget and a call for the region to be a FIFO hub for mining giant Adani.

The announcements come after a difficult week for Cr Loft, who was charged last Thursday with corruption offences by the Crime and Corruption Commission and is set to face court next month.

Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, Maryborough.  CEO Ken Diehm and Mayor Chris Loft.
Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, Maryborough. CEO Ken Diehm and Mayor Chris Loft. Valerie Horton

It worsened after the State Government announced they had issued a Suspension Notice to the mayor on Tuesday.

On his official Facebook page yesterday, Cr Loft said he had directed CEO Ken Diehm and council staff to keep "rate rises to a maximum of zero per increase for next year" and "look at eliminating some fees and charges".

"If all goes to plan there is a chance we might even be able to deliver a rate reduction to some residents which I am sure will be appreciated," Cr Loft's statement read.

"My promise prior to the election was to keep increases below consumer price index but after now beginning to get things in order I am confident I can deliver even better than that for the community."

In July, the council delivered a budget with a rate increase of 1.53 per cent, which is under CPI. When asked about the mayor's promise, council's CEO Ken Diehm said he was "highly confident" the council could deliver a budget with a 0% general rate increase.

But councillor Paul Truscott questioned the timing of the announcement.

"Making a public statement via Facebook to have a zero per cent rates increase, without any discussion with your colleagues, in times of turmoil, seems like using the power of distraction to me," Cr Truscott told The Chronicle.

"It causes me great concern for future ratepayers for the inevitable rate rises they will be faced with."

"If 0% is achievable then let's discuss it as a collective. The timing of this statement is peculiar."

On the same day, Cr Loft called for Adani to consider the Fraser Coast as a major fly-in fly-out hub for their Central Queensland mine. He said he had written to Adani management asking for "their prime contractor Downer to conduct one one of their regional employment fairs in either Hervey Bay or Maryborough."

"There is no region more ready, willing or able to supply skilled workers to this mega mine, rail and port project," Cr Loft said.

Some in the community have voiced concern over Mr Furner taking action against Cr Loft while the government is in caretaker mode. A spokesman from Mr Furner's office said the minister had the legislative power to issue the notice of intention to suspend under the Local Government Act.

"The Minister abided by the relevant caretaker conventions in making the decision," the spokesman said.

The Chronicle understands the State Government consulted with the opposition before the decision was made to issue the Notice of Intent to Suspend to Cr Loft.

Topics:  chris loft crime and corruption commission fccouncil fccouncilmeet fraser coast regional council mark furner state government



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