By Michael Giles
THE present Bass Coast Shire Council cannot be chucked out of office too soon if the comments made by former mayor, Cr Neil Rankine, are an indication of their thinking.
At last week’s council meeting, Cr Rankine was bemoaning the decision council reluctantly had to take to accept the State Government’s decision to cap rate increases in 2016-17 to 2.5 per cent.
He said shire residents could expect more surprises like the decision to close the visitor information centre in Wonthaggi because, having failed to cut its cloth accordingly, the shire would now have to find $1.7 million more in savings.
“The Bass Coast Shire will become a ‘$2 Shop Shire’, he said, because it won’t be able to afford to do anything.
If Bass Coast really is a ‘$2 Shop Shire’ what does that say for neighbours South Gippsland and Baw Baw, both of whom raise less revenue from rates than Bass Coast, and in South Gippsland’s case, has more than $10 million less in revenue overall than Bass Coast.
When you combine his comments with those made by Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins, warning councils to cut excessive executive salaries rather than services, and an article in the Herald-Sun headed ‘Victorian council bosses earning up to $170,000 more than the Premier Daniel Andrews’, you know where the council should actually start cutting back.
The fact is that municipal salaries right across the board are out of step with what’s affordable in the rest of the community.
And a lot of people working for shires right across the state would accept reduced salaries if it meant keeping their jobs and doing the right thing by the community.
And you can start at the top with Paul Buckley.
If you can believe the article in the Herald-Sun, at $320,000 a year, Mr Buckley is receiving more than the Premier at $290,554 p.a.
Now the Premier would get a very generous expense account on top of that, but still, the question remains, should the base salaries of the two roles be that close together?
Over the years, local government wages and conditions have got out of control because there’s no one that can say “enough is enough”. It’s Dracula in charge of the blood bank with CEOs the supreme power, not the councils.
If the Local Government Minister really means what she says about the “excessive wages of senior staff”, she should do something about that as well.
The truth of it is that there will be more pain in Bass Coast while the shire adjusts to its new financial regime but it simply couldn’t go on like it was, turning up the wick on rate revenue just to solve its own poor management.
The community has also lost faith with how shires spend our money these days, wasting millions on consultants and processes designed to cover their own culpability rather than backing their judgement and getting on with the job.
The scandalous approach to the Surf Parade shared pathway is an example but sadly, there are many more.