Michael-Giles_monoBy Michael Giles

THE message simply doesn’t seem to be getting through to the Bass Coast Shire Council!
We are told that the council is collecting upwards of $8 million less in rates than its peer councils in regional Victoria and that they are spending about $5 million more on staff wages than its neighbours.
That’s a gap of $13 million annually in available funds for the likes of a tip and a swimming pool on Phillip Island, the rebuilding of an aquatic centre in Wonthaggi and the construction of a shared pathway along Surf Parade in Inverloch… not to mention the upkeep of such basics as Callay Drive in Pioneer Bay.
It’s no wonder then that the shire has no money to improve services and infrastructure in the area and has to fall back on Special Charge Schemes to make out that it is actually doing something.
Certainly the shire’s administration laments the fact that successive councils have not pushed rates up to comparative levels but the reality now is that the community won’t stomach a steep increase in rates to catch up. So that’s got to be ruled out.
Unfortunately, the alternative is harder for the shire administration to deliver and must necessarily involve a wholesale review and restructure of the shire’s workforce with the sort of reassessment talked about at South Gippsland and started at Baw Baw Shire.
What’s needed is a complete review of all of the shire’s spending, service by service, and department by department. We’re told this is happening but the community wants details, progress reports and results.
But we see no reference at all to the need to cut back dramatically on staff expenditure in the shire’s long-term financial plan; quite the opposite.
The shire wants the community to simply tick off on a business as usual approach in this area.
The reality in this approach is, however, that less and less will get done while shire wages march ahead, while the economy is under pressure and after the Andrews Government caps rates to the CPI next year.
The time to act is now (actually it was years ago) and as suggested at a recent public submissions meeting on the subject, the shire council should throw out its long term financial plan and come up with a document that proposes real change and a real vision for the Bass Coast.