Bass Coast Shire councillors last week voted to work within the Fair Go rate cap for 2016.
But from the public gallery, I could see that none of them were pleased about doing so.
Cr Bradley Drew, without enthusiastically embracing the community’s decision, acknowledged that the community had told council to cut its cloth to suit the cap.
Cr Clare Le Serve pointed out that council needed to better engage with the community to get its message heard.
She cited the community backlash stemming from council’s recent closed session decision to shut down the Wonthaggi Visitor Information Centre as a case in point.
Cr Neil Rankine confessed that he had prepared an alternate motion to raise an additional $16 per ratepayer above the Fair Go level.
But he withdrew his motion after realising that it had no prospect of getting up.
I have no doubt that if Neil had pursued this sneaky attempt at gouging ratepayers, then council would have once again raised the ire of the community.
Cr Phil Wright appeared almost apoplectic is his opposition to the cap. During his diatribe he derided the lower rate level and argued the need for ever higher rate increases. At one point he told his fellow councillors that if he had his way rates would increase rates by 10 per cent.
And he went on to say that he didn’t like voting in favour of the motion, but had to because that is what the community wants.
Cr Kimberley Brown was also scathing of the need to cap rates at 2.5 per cent and warned of problems if the Fair Go rate cap continues beyond this year.
Apparently sensing that the public gallery was unimpressed with councillors’ arguments, Mayor Cr Jordan Crugnale quickly brought the motion to vote without speaking further to it.
From what I witnessed, these councillors still don’t get it. They don’t understand the need to set rates within an ordinary ratepayer’s ability to meet the increase.
CEO’s and executives on obscene salaries can merely shrug off cost of living increases without feeling any discomfort.
Not so for ordinary ratepayers such as working families, retirees, pensioners, people with disabilities, and others.
These councillors just don’t seem to understand the impact that their excessive rate increases can have on ordinary ratepayers.
We ordinary ratepayers must carefully manage our budgets to account for cost increases such as food and clothing, education, health care, gas, electricity, water, vehicle registration, and many other charges.
And we have some opportunity to shop around for a better deal if service providers hike their costs.
But we’re unable to shop around if council decides to impose excessive rate increases.
We have no choice and are at their mercy.
During the council meeting I asked if councillors would, in future years, direct council to work within the rate cap.
Unfortunately, not a single councillor would agree to do so.
Instead, they appear intent on pursuing the excessive rate increases stated in their Long Term Financial Plan.
So it seems that next year our Bass Coast community will once again have to fight the good fight in order to prevent excessive rate increases.
Later this year will see council elections in Victoria. It is my sincere hope that we will see alternative candidates step forward to offer themselves for service in Bass Coast.
Candidates who will pledge to hold increases in rates and charges to the Fair Go level, and will also pledge to increase the transparency of all of the council’s financial transactions.
Candidates who will rebuild trust with the community.
In other words, councillors who will act with rigorous fiscal discipline and transparency.
Councillors who comprehensively understand the need to professionally manage the CEO and executive in order to maximise the value obtained from ratepayer monies.
Kevin Griffin, Inverloch.