In June this year a group of ratepayers presented budget submissions to Bass Coast Shire Council.
Each questioned the proposed budget. Each suggested changes to it.
Some criticised as spin the confusing way that information was presented. Others questioned the accuracy of figures. Some criticised inefficient use of ratepayer monies.
Mr Les Larke presented a very strong submission, complete with a petition carrying more than 1000 signatures, calling for urgent improvements to the Wonthaggi cemetery.
My own submission was that council’s proposal to increase residential rates by 8.2 per cent was unreasonable, excessive, and unjustifiable, and that it should be reduced to a more reasonable 2.5 per cent.
We each presented to councillors, hoping to persuade them to amend their budget to make it fairer for all ratepayers.
Some weeks later Cr Kimberley Brown wrote to submitters saying that council was impressed by the time and effort taken by submitters. Yippee! We got an elephant stamp for time and effort.
But there was no point in us presenting our submissions. They’ve not adopted a single substantive part of any submission.
It appears that the evening was little more than a charade necessary to meet the requirements of the Local Government Act.
They may have been impressed by time and effort, but they were clearly unimpressed by the content. In reality our efforts were a complete waste of time. Our time would have been better spent just staying at home with our families.
Their proposed budget declared “Existing fees and charges to be increased in line with CPI or market levels”.
But it is obvious that no consideration was given to the current inflation rate of 1.5 per cent.
They’ve imposed a residential rate increase of more nearly six times the inflation rate!
And their LTFP shows that they’re planning to slug ratepayers with per-annum tax increases of more than three times CPI for the next decade.
They seem quite skilled at increasing taxes and charges with little regard for the impact on ratepayers, smug in the knowledge that we are all but powerless to resist their impositions.
These councillors have amply demonstrated their fondness for transferring wealth from ratepayers’ households to the coffers of council.
They need to develop a sense of fairness. They must stop plundering ratepayers’ pockets.
They must stop behaving like spoiled children who think they can summon our money at will, as if it grows on trees.
2016 will see elections for Local Government representatives.
Ratepayers should be under no illusion that these councillors will change their high taxing ways if re-elected.
It is my sincere hope that we will see alternative candidates step forward to offer themselves for service.
Candidates who will pledge to hold increases in rates and charges very close to the inflation rate.
Candidates who will also pledge to increase the transparency of all of council’s financial transactions, and who will not fleece ratepayers with excessive rate increases.
Candidates who will rebuild trust with the community.
Kevin Griffin, Inverloch.