A second Northern Beaches Councillor has quit the Your Northern Beaches Independent Team political group.

With Local Government elections only ten weeks away, Frenchs Forest Ward Councillor Jose Menano-Pires (main image) today (Monday, 08 July) announced he was quitting as a candidate for the Your Northern Beaches Independent Team (YNBIT) political movement, and took a thinly veiled swipe at Mayor Sue Heins.

“I joined the YNBIT, then ably led by Michael Regan, because I believed that a strong group of Independents working together would be best placed to make an effective positive difference in our LGA [Local Government Area].

“Michael’s election to State Parliament as Member for Wakehurst, and consequent retirement from Mayor and YNBIT Leader, left a leadership vacuum in both roles that has not been satisfactorily filled.

“Michael as Mayor and Leader was the glue that joined a diverse group of individuals with various and sometimes competing ideas, into a cohesive team that worked very well for the benefit of our residents.

“Unfortunately, due to the lack of leadership in both roles since he stepped down, that cohesiveness has collapsed, and some team members do think more about their petty political self-interest than to proudly work together for our community.

“I’ll not be part of the YNBIT that plans to contest the forthcoming Local Government election in September 2024, so it is fitting that I resign from the team, effective immediately,” announced Cr Menano-Pires.

Wakehurst MP Michael Regan

According to former Mayor Michael Regan (image above), YNBIT was formed as a registered political party to enable community-based Independent candidates to contest elections on an equal footing with other political parties.

YNBIT was created by Mr Regan before the ‘Teal’ Independent movement gained traction. Although designed to support his election as Mayor, the group could fairly be said to have held a range of political views.

As was reported last January when Pittwater Ward Councillor Michael Gencher defected from YNBIT to the Liberal Party, tensions have been increasing within the ‘orange’ and ‘teal’ groups, which are formally separate but share many of the same political volunteers.

Reports from within YNBIT indicate that since Mr Regan was elected to the NSW Parliament last May, his focus has increasingly been on state politics, and his direct influence within the YNBIT has been waning as the power dynamic within the group shifts.

YNBIT has yet to publicly name their candidates for the upcoming Council elections on 14 September, but today’s announcement by Cr Menano-Pires indicates growing influence over the selection process by Teals within the group.

Cr Menano-Pires refused to confirm that he had been pushed out by YNBIT, but it is understood from other sources that YNBIT Mayor Sue Heins is planning to move from Curl Curl Ward to Frenchs Forest Ward to make way for former Teal candidate for Manly Joeline Hackman to run at the top of the YNBIT ticket for Curl Curl Ward.

Jose Menano-Pires questions the Hop, Skip and Jump bus

Cr Menano-Pires said the rift with his former colleagues had grown wider over differences on the recent Council budget, which he referred to as a ‘spend and tax’ budget.

“Northern Beaches Council faces serious challenges in the short and medium term, and I am convinced that the YNBIT will not be able to address them. On the contrary, I think the YNBIT is, and if elected will be, part of the problem, not part of the solution.

“The most critical challenge is Council’s financial situation. For the first time since I have served in both Warringah and Northern Beaches Councils, the 2024/25 Budget will be in deficit to the tune of $5.1m.

“Furthermore, while still paying the legacy debt from Manly and Pittwater Councils, we are now increasing our debt level by another $10.5m to finance the building of the Warriewood Community Centre, that was tentatively fully budgeted internally in the past.

“And to make a bad situation worse, we are seriously falling behind in asset maintenance and replacement, especially on road maintenance. We can all appreciate the deteriorating situation of our roads, compounded by the cost of temporary fixing potholes,” said Cr Menano-Pires.

Cr Menano-Pires said that he was unable to support 20-25 percent rate rises that would be required under Council’s delivery plan.

“While the majority of my YNBIT colleagues support this high rate rise and spoke in its favour at the June Council Meeting, I cannot in conscience do so.

“Under the current cost of living pressure that our residents face, I can not support an increase of that size, which will place, in my opinion, an unacceptable burden in our resident’s financial situation, especially young families also facing increasing costs in child care.

“I strongly believe that before we contemplate any increase in rates on top of the mandated one, Council should tighten its own belt, and implement a variety of saving measures or financial cuts to reduce its expenditure, as I stated at the Council Meeting.

“I do not believe we can find a single saving measure or cut to a service that will give us the necessary savings. I think it will have to be a comprehensive wide range review that will have to include the level of some services, the grants program, the marketing and communications program and the cost and number of events paid for or subsidised by Council, to name just a few areas,” said Cr Menano-Pires.

Northern Beaches Council Sign

At the Council debate last month, which saw the adoption of the budget, Cr Menano-Pires warned that the Council faced a future of being placed into administration. Today, he said small decisions were reflective of a bigger problem Council had on spending.

“I think we have been way too generous in spending our ratepayer’s money — for instance, in the last report of our Discretionary Fund, it was disclosed that through the Mayors’ Office $2,000 was approved as funding assistance to several residents to ‘represent the Cook Islands and attend the 2024 FIT Touch World Cup and compete in the Open Women’s Team in England’.

“I do not think this kind of expenditure passes the ‘pub test’. It may well be said ‘it is only $2,000′, and that is correct, but for me what is important is the concept that using our residents’ rates to pay for sport representation of a foreign country — even a fantastic one like the Cook Islands — is acceptable. In my view that is a serious lapse in judgement,” said Cr Menano-Pires.

With only two Council meetings remaining before the election, and no significant votes likely, the removal of another vote is unlikely to cause many practical difficulties for Mayor Sue Heins, who wished Cr Menano-Pires well.

“Your Northern Beaches Independent Team thank Jose for his time and dedication to Council. We wish him the best in his future endeavours,” said Mayor Heins.

More likely to be problematic is Cr Menano-Pires’ future intentions. A former member of the Liberal Party, Cr Menano-Pires confirmed this afternoon that he was ‘considering his options’ and had the experience necessary to run his own campaign.

“I have run and won in the Forest before by myself. I will take some time now to consider what the future may look like if I were stand as a true Independent. What I can say for certain is that I will not be running for the Liberal Party.

“The current mandate still has a couple of months to go. I will continue to fulfil my commitment to our community to the best of my ability.

“Regarding the election in September, my advice to the residents is to cast your vote wisely. Take the time to understand what the candidates really stand for. In the case of candidates seeking re-election, check their voting track record; it will either be for ‘fiscal responsibility, living within our means’ or ‘spend and tax’,” said Cr Menano-Pires.

The 2024 NSW Local Government elections will be held on Saturday, 14 September. Pre-poll for the elections will be available for one week, from Saturday, 07 September to Friday, 13 September.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate

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