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Rating Review Hearings Blast Council Staff

The Executive Director of Local Government Victoria was at the public hearings for the rating review so I finally got the answer to my questions from June about the Council Budget Template and passing the budget by June 30th.

As I suspected, Graeme Emonson confirmed it’s not compulsory to use the template and there’s no financial penalty for failing to pass a Budget by June 30th.

Overall, it was a pretty bleak evening for the reputation of Councils across Victoria.

Financial counsellors told the Review Task Force that Councils are now forcing their own residents into bankruptcy for non-payment of rates. Some debts are less than $10,000.

The most accurate figure available across the state is that between 8,000-10,000 bankruptcies every year are caused by rates arrears.

The same counsellors were also critical of the way Councils manage residents with financial difficulties ..bouncing them from person to person within Council and providing different information every time they ring and are put through to a different staff member.

There was a speaker from Ratepayers’ Australia who mentioned a new quasi-financial instrument being tested out by Melbourne Council. The idea is to lend money to residents for ‘environment upgrades’ such as solar panels. But if the residents’ default, the loan conditions allow the Council to seize the property.

There were also retired Council officers and property developers who spoke who were scathing about how Councils have rapidly expanded their function and service provisions into areas where they have no expertise, and that provide no benefit to ratepayers.

I wanted to talk about Council budget: which is what my submission to the review was based on.

When I finally got to my feet to speak….the first focus on Council budgets all night: I was shut down.

Task force member Kathy Alexander, who’d done a fairly good job of keeping discussions in hand decided the evening had run its course and closed proceedings.

It would be an understatement to say I’m annoyed. But that’s what happens in democracy.

All people are equal, but some get more time to talk than others.

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