We are in the midst of an emergency crisis, which according to expert economists could be as dramatic as the great depression and lead to up to 20 per cent unemployment.
This is likely to go on for at least 18 months. Businesses and people in South Gippsland are under growing social and financial stress. Council administrators are in the process of considering its budget and the level of rates for 2020-2021. They are proposing a 2 per cent rate rise.
It is my belief that the unelected administrators should deliver, as the Premier of WA has argued, a zero-council rate rise to ameliorate the crisis for people and businesses. As unelected administrators, this gives them the chance to show they are for all of South Gippsland and they owe a particular responsibility to be alert to community needs and expectations.
There is growing concern about the impact of our high rates on disadvantaged people. Our administrators snuck in an additional $32m in council’s last budget, trashing our elected council’s planned commitment to a zero-rate rise. In my view this was appalling without proper commitment to genuine consultation.
This appears to be directed to a municipal precinct building, which was resoundingly defeated at the last election by the public in voting out the old guard. There is more than enough to pay for the impact of lost income over the 15-year financial plan and indeed to cover a more generous and compassionate hardship policy to write-off part of rate debts of people in deep need.
Australians in crisis have a unique ability to come together to support each other and do what is necessary. Council’s administrators need to prove their worth and show some common sense and leadership in this crisis and compassion, which is affordable, just and necessary.
My suggested motion for council:
Given the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on businesses, workers and the people of South Gippsland, the Shire should come in line with WA and endorse a zero-rate rise for all ratepayers as a practical and fair step to assist them. That this be funded by a reduction of the cost over the long-term financial plan and come from the increased allocation of $32.6m for municipal buildings, which are unjustified and unconsulted; and further they reverse their recent unfair hardship policy to allow for debts to be written off in exceptional hardship cases.
I have started a petition at chng.it/vfKxBTDH so let’s all get behind it and demand decisive leadership from our administrators.
Matt Sherry, Foster.