What a hilarious afternoon listening to the special South Gippsland Shire Council meeting on June 10 to consider submissions to the 15/16 budget by ratepayers.
The meeting opened with the council telling ratepayers what a wonderful process council had given ratepayers – ‘Your Say’ – and then the opportunity for written S223 submissions.
But the devil was in the next sentence – Council proclaimed it could not really make any changes to the budget because the time line was so tight. Council was required to approve the budget at their June 27 meeting and have it to the Minister for Local Government by June 30.
It was already June 10! So sorry to everyone who had made submissions – tough luck!
Interesting that one ratepayer who had made a submission on that basis saying it was a farce asking ratepayers to make submissions unless the time line was changed, was severely criticised later in the meeting.
Then off we went.
“No” to every submission. Then council announced “Oh dear, we cannot say ‘no’ to all the submissions, so here is one we can approve.” (Exact words!)
So despite the fact that the proposal was not in their Rails and Trails Strategy and some councillors expressed valid reservations, the submission was approved. Council was jubilant – it had said “yes” to a submission.
Next came the highlight! Council accepted a motion which had only been submitted one hour before the meeting on a submission regarding rating strategy. This amended motion was passed on a vote of 5 to 4. This motion:
(a) overturned the council’s Rating Strategy
(b) impacted on all 19,000 ratepayers
(c) ignored the fact that the Rating Strategy is to be reviewed within 15 months
(d) ignored council officers who told the meeting they did not know the full impact and financial implications on the budget because they had not had time to assess the motion and recommended to council that the motion not be passed until further work undertaken
(f) Ignored the fact that earlier in the meeting council had said that no submissions could be approved with a major budgetary impact because this would mean council would have to undergo a full consultation process again and therefore not meet deadlines.
I was SO impressed with their good governance in just throwing over their Rating Strategy. Not!
I am sorry – I give up. No more council submissions. No more letters.
Megan Knight, Foster.