By Michael Giles
AS MUCH as the Mayor Cr Don Hill and other members of the embattled local council have made South Gippsland an obvious target for action by the Minister for Local Government, the problems run deep through the sector.
Chief among those problems is the inequity in the state’s rating system whereby country ratepayers are paying two and three times what their city counterparts pay while many metro councils are positively awash with cash they hardly know how to spend.
Also, some shires have been left behind by the CPI rate cap policy adopted a few years ago, affecting the likes of Bass Coast which can hardly afford the funds to match government grants for new infrastructure.
Their inability to secure an aquatic centre on Phillip Island, presenting huge benefits at both ends of the age demographic, is a case in point.
The other issue is the situation with municipal staff wages, especially at executive levels, where pay and conditions run well ahead of what others are paid for similar jobs in the private sector locally, and with band increases built in.
The rising cost of council admin is killing service delivery and must be addressed right across the board.
There are also problems with the preferential voting system we have at Local Government level, the lack of qualification for councillors and the situation where disgruntled former employees can win a place on council and cause havoc.
If the Minister does go ahead and sack South Gippsland Shire Council this week it will be an acknowledgement of the deep-seated problems in Local Government in Victoria but, in reality, it’s just kicking the can down the road.