Ratepayers Victoria (RVP) Workshop, which was held on Saturday 24th March 2018 at Ratcliff Community Hall had a good turn out of ratepayer members who attended despite the extremely bad weather. The mood of the workshop was very positive.
It was decided that RPV have to have a theme such as when Gough Whitlam used a theme “Its Time” back in a Federal election in the mid seventies.
The theme voted on by members was “Enough is Enough” and RPV encourage all members to use this catch phrase where possible.
There were four major items that came out of the workshop that RPV will advertise in the media.
It was discussed and accepted by members that ratepayers require a Local Government Ombudsman as now in place, a Telecommunications Ombudsman, a Water Ombudsman and so on.
If this is possible then this appointment has to have ”teeth”. The appointment would have to be an independent appointment answerable to someone like the Chief Municipal Inspectorate. This body’s decisions would be final.
There was concern from those attending on how the developer contribution plan (DCP) is been handled. This fund is where a developer pays a contribution to a Council based on the projected cost of the project. 10% of that project is to be put into a trust fund at the council for future infrastructure and other projects such as open space.
In the new draft there is no mention of this DCP which was put into the local government act back in 1989. Some councils are using this plan, others seem not to be. There are many millions of dollars involved in this plan and ratepayers are the losers when these monies are not being collected. In the new act it is the responsibility of the 78 councils in Victoria as to how they are to handle this DCP
There is concern that in the draft of the new act there is no mention of any accountability regarding the use of the corporate council credit card. It was reported in the media last year that a country CEO was charged with 67 offences with the alleged misuse of the corporate credit card. How could this happen. In the draft of the new act there is no mention as to any accountability regarding the control of council credit cards. RPV are recommending that the councils audit committee, who meet every three months, should monitor these credit card payments. It’s reported in the South Australia media that all of the 68 councils in S.A. are been investigated by the Auditor general regarding the use of the council credit card. It is beyond belief that there is nothing in the new act regarding the control of the credit card in Victoria.
Implementing a plan regarding the handling of complaints at councils seems to have hit a brick wall. Back in March 2015 the ombudsman Debra Glass made a stinging attack on how complaints were been handled at councils. The then LG Minister Natalie Hutchins stated that she would legislate to have an independent body handle complaints. Minister Hutchins is now in another portfolio and it would seem that nothing has happened. In the draft of the new act it is stated that an independent body will be set up to handle complaints, but this independent body will be set up by council with no ratepayers involvement.
RV Public meeting Saturday 24 March 2018
As President of the above Ratepayers Association and Committee Member Ratepayers Victoria I was asked to speak on the progress of the Mildura branch and to prepare a report for our web site.
Since the formation of a ratepayers association and the subsequent evolving into part of Ratepayers Victoria, we have achieved significant milestones in Mildura.
From the time we formed in late 2015 we found ourselves under attack from a hostile council and particularly the Mayor. Whether from staff, the CEO or any councillors, the attacks in the main were via the Mayor.
Obviously Mildura Rural City Council(MRCC) saw a ratepayers association as a threat, begging the question “why?”
Through our resilience and remaining focussed on our goals we slowly turned things around. We had a young and energetic businessman elected to council in 2016 and over the past 18 months we have seen a major transformation. I believe key to our success has been my insistence of not retaliating to the negativity or attacks against us by those who viewed us as adversaries. There was plenty of it, however any retaliation I felt was wasted energy and merely gave ones critics the forum to continue the criticism.
We now have a new Mayor, a group of 5 of the 9 councillors who are approachable and we have regular meetings with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
I attribute our success to the strength of our team as we have been fortunate to have gathered people who have expertise that actually surpasses that of the executive of MRCC and the Mayor is drawing on that expertise. MRCC staff are finding it more difficult to pull the wool over the eyes of our councillors.
I encourage anyone thinking of forming an association to gather people around them who are energetic and dedicated in the first instance and if possible, some with accounting and business management experience. The latter 2 points are sadly lacking in many councils.
We promote the formation of regional associations as those of us in the regions are actually subsidising the state and therefore metropolitan councils. We pay up to 3.5 times the General Rate and we do not get anywhere near the services that Melbourne people take for granted.
One example, Mildura has not had a passenger rail service since the early 1990’s. This means that every regional community between Ballarat and Mildura has lost a basic service that is available to every major city across the state and services all towns en route.
I believe all regional municipalities would benefit by having their own associations, thereby creating a united force and presenting a single voice through Ratepayers Victoria.
Other matters addressed at the meeting were rate capping and Developer Contribution Plan(DCP)
The Director of the Essential Services Commission, Andrew Chow gave a presentation and explanation of rate capping and how it works.
I thank Andrew for his continued availability and willingness to speak at these functions and we must understand that his function is to explain how the system is set up and how it works, not to enter into discussion of how we would like the system to work. I believe that if Andrew’s level of professionalism was more evident across the board, we would be in a far better place.
The conversation on rates I believe has to be much broader than it is currently. Victoria appears to be the hardest on regional councils than any other state.
By way of example, the model used in Western Australia(WA) sees rates from Albany in the south to Kununurra, over 3500km to its north paying residential rates with minimal variation to Perth. WA rates are struck on the “gross rental value” rather than the “capital improved value(CIV)” as used in Victoria, resulting in a much fairer rating system that is decided by the rental market as opposed to CIV which is calculated by council.
As part of our thrust, should we be pushing for government to look at the various models around the nation?
Note: Rates are a “TAX”, an “AUSTRALIAN TAX”! This is not my opinion; it was a ruling of the High Court of Australia (Sydney Municipal Council v The Commonwealth of Australia ¬–) and is still quoted to the present day. This makes the application of this “TAX” at least questionable. How has it avoided the principles of equity and fairness that apply to taxation law?
Developer Contribution Plan(DCP)
This whole system deserves some serious scrutiny.
Billions of dollars are involved and in the main, these funds are not being managed within the legislated guidelines and the projects itemised in DCP’s
Developer Contributions, paid by developers for infrastructure is in many cases, are not being used for the projects itemised in specific DCP’s nor are councils wishing to vary from the DCP making the request to the Minister for Planning as required and appear to simply be using the funds elsewhere.
In the case of MRCC, it was found that almost $2,000,000 earmarked for a skate park and a library upgrade not only didn’t go ahead, they were not even mentioned and only came to light because our association was approached to look into the matter. Every requirement laid down in the DCP was not followed in this instance and in our opinion was not intended to see the light of day. This is but one example within a DCP that totalled approximately $48m and is one of 3 DCP’s in MRCC, just one regional council. It appears to be everywhere.
A brief search of DCP’s across the country shows similar anomalies with one council earning $4m interest on DCP funds held begging the question as to where that $4m was used. According to the guidelines, it would have to be part of the/belong to the DCP.
Finally, I want to thank Jack and Beaty Davis, Frank Sullivan and the committee for organising this meeting and look forward to the next conference.
President: Ratepayers Victoria-Mildura Branch
The Local Government Act 1989 provides the framework for the establishment and operation of Victoria’s 79 Councils. It the overarching legislation for Council elections, powers and operations is about 500 pages long and has been amended numerous times. You virtually need to be a lawyer to understand and follow the existing Act.
The Government maintains it was a major election commitment to review the Act because it was outdated, flawed, and that the Local Government sector had sought reform for some time. A discussion paper was prepared in 2015 and following an extensive consultation process involving the local government, the community and review of 333 submissions on 6 December 2017 a Draft Bill was released for public comment.
Submissions closed on 16 March 2018 and Ratepayers Victoria made a submission. We indicated that while the Draft Bill is an improvement on the existing Act we consider that it requires substantial improvement before it is suitable for placing before Parliament.
The aim of the Government was the Act would tell people clearly what councils do, how the community can become involved in Councils and be able to better understand the value and role of a Council. However the Draft is still over 300 pages long and our contention is that it remains very difficult for the average person to understand and follow.
An objective of the review was to provide more autonomy for Councils and to cut unnecessary red tape by being less prescriptive. This involved removing prescriptive council decision-making rules and replacing these with high level principles requiring transparency and accountability.
While we agree with Councils being more outcome focused, we are concerned that less prescription will may make it more difficult to make Councils accountable. We are all aware how Councils use the current Act to avoid scrutiny and make it extremely difficult to get answers to probing questions.
Some examples of our concerns about the Act being less prescriptive are:
• Councils can develop their own Governance rules including how they conduct meetings and how they can delegate to committees,
• Council can determine the form and availability of meeting records,
• while the Minister may issue good practice guidelines it is not clear what the penalty is if a Council does not comply, and
• the Draft Act provides for the each Council to produce its own Complaints, Community Engagement and Public Transparency Policies. We do not agree with this requirement as we could have 79 Council with different policies.
Another of our concerns is that the proposed Bill does not address one of the community’s main concerns and that is addressing and satisfactorily resolving community complaints. There are 7 different organisations which deal with complaints or have an overview role of Councillor or Council staff behaviour.
Our suggestion to avoid confusion is that there should only be one point of contact for the community to deal with an unsatisfactory resolution of complaint to a Council and this should be to a Local Government Ombudsman (similar to the Ombudsman for Insurance, Energy and Water, Public Transport, Telecommunications, etc.). If the Local Government Ombudsman becomes aware that a complaint is a possible breach of the Act then the complaint should be referred to IBAC for further investigation. We suggested that the cost to the community for this change will be minimal because it is only a relocation of existing organisations and staff, and does not involve the introduction of a new organisation.
We noted that dealing with inappropriate Council behaviour is still overly complex and difficult to follow. Conflict-of-interest is still mentioned on 19 pages in the Draft Bill and that the various sections relating to the overall Councillor behaviour is unnecessarily protracted and run to well over 100 pages. This also seems to be excessive and overly complex when compared to the relatively few pages which are directed to dealing with staff behaviour.
The Draft Act provides for Minister will appoint a Local Government Advisory Committee comprising 5 Mayors. We have some concerns with the process of appointment and in our submission we called on the Minister to give ratepayers an equal opportunity and establish an equivalent committee comprised of representatives from ratepayer groups.
The Draft Bill proposes that Councils produce a 10 year Strategic Plan, a 4 year Council Plan and for the Mayor to report progress annually on the four year Council Plan. While we strongly support these requirements we believe that this in itself will not make a Council more accountable to the community for its performance.
It is proposed that Chief Executive Officers will be appointed for 5 years with the eligibility for re-appointment for a further 5 years. We oppose a 5 year term and suggest it should only be a maximum of 4 years to be consistent with the term of a Council.
At present there are 5 different models of Ward and Councillor representation. It is proposed that this be reduced to two models. There is no evidence or information provided to indicate that a reduction in electoral representation structures as suggested will, in the Government’s own words, “enhance democracy, and revitalise local democracy and diversity of representation”.
While our major concerns are outlined above there are some aspects of the Draft Bill we support (subject to suggested improvements which we detailed in our submission) and these include:
• deliberative community engagement,
• greater transparency,
• continuation of capping of rates,
• greater Ministerial oversight of Councils,
• Council to establish an Audit and Risk Committee with greater powers,
• Councils to have a gift policy, and
• Mayors to be continue to be appointed for only one year.
Overall our submission amounted to a total of about 60 pages and we commented on about 100 clauses and as our deputy president has pointed out, we only have one opportunity for a new Act to be right as it will be many years before it is will be reviewed again.
Dr. Alan Nelsen
Ratepayers Victoria are proud to announce that we visited Shepparton on Tuesday 27th February 28, 2018 with the purpose of setting up a ratepayer group in Shepparton.
RPV were interviewed by the Local Channel 9 station regarding this and the interview was shown on the Local Channel 9 news at 6.00pm the same day , which did explain the purpose as to why RPV wants a ratepayer group in Shepparton
RPV have booked a hall to oversee a public meeting in Shepparton to get the ratepayer group up and running
Date 27th March 2018
Place Senior Citizens Hall Welsford Street Shepparton
Please come along to this meeting and assist us to get the ratepayer group up and running in Shepparton
Any enquires please contact our Vice president Frank Sullivan 0438555805
This is the article about Council; Corruption that appeared in the Herald Sun today.
Council found to be in contempt of court
Maribyrnong is currently forming a Ratepayers organisation
For more info Contact Arthur 0407 808 088 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ratepayers Victoria will be conducting a public Meeting at the Moonee Valley Community Hall 1A South Road Airport West Meways Map 15 H/7 on 24th March 2018 between 1PM to 5pm.
Invites will be sent to all Ratepayer Groups within Victoria.
Guest speaker will be Peter Clarke Mayor Nillumbik Council.
Andrew Chou Director Essential Services
Inviteation have been sent to
Hon.Marlene Kairouz MP Local Government Minister
Tom Elliot Drive 3aw
Mr David Morris Opposition Local Government.
items under discussion will
include Changes to the Local Government Act
State Government changes to Land Tax
And several item of concern that affect Ratepayers and your rates
Question time after each guest speaker
President RPV Inc.
For more information Contact
0412 238 974
or email email@example.com
Please acknowledge your attendance
To the Premier .
Back on the 5th March 2015, the Auditor-General slammed the MAV regarding their operations. That report stated that in that year 2015, the MAV received $56 million in funding from the Federal and State Governments and local councils.
Ratepayers Victoria requested a meeting with the appropriate people to discuss the possibility of obtaining some funding to employ two or three people for us to continue, and increase our support of the ratepayers of Victoria.
RPV receive no funding as a non-profit organization run by volunteers who provide the only united advocacy voice for the ratepayers to councils and Local Government.
RPV believes this would be a tremendous opportunity for the government to further demonstrate its commitment to foster and encourage community engagement and consultation
We await your reply (still waiting February 2018)
The state government has publicly stated that Ratepayers Victoria Inc is the only group that represents the Victorian Ratepayers.
Both the Municipal association of Victoria (MAV)Victorian local government association (VLGA)represent the Local Governments.
Both of these groups receive multy $millions of ratepayers funds and do nothing for ratepayers
We have lodge an application with the Government to assist with the costs involved with setting up new branches around Victoria.
We were recently invited by the Parliament Legislative Council public hearing into Victoria s’ Rural and regional Councils held on the 15th August 2017 at Parliament House senate committee to Submit a paper on issues that are of concern to ratepayers ,RPV were interviewed by the Legislate Council regarding Rate Capping on the 23rd August 2017 ,met two managers from the Auditor Generals’ office , had a meeting with the new president of the MAV Mary Lalios and met the new mayor of Nillumbik Council ,Peter Clarke ,who has slashed spending in Nillumbik and has challenged his fellow councils to do as the same.
It is accepted that where there is a ratepayer group that council operate more efficiently, RPV encourage you to join us with our work to make councils more accountable.
Rpv are setting up a new Sub branch in Geelong and hope shortly to open a new sub branch in Bendigo, Sheppartton, Wangaratta and Bairnsdale.
We encourage all Ratepayers groups to contact the President Jack Davis on Email Ratepayersvic@outlook.com Mildura Ratepayers is the first group to become a sub branch of RPV Inc. President Phil Douglas has stated that they have gone ahead as a sub branch in leaps and bounds and are now a force to be reckoned with
Jack Davis JP
Ratepayers Victoria Inc
Aiming to be the peak advocacy body for all Victorian Ratepayers,we encourage
the formation of new Ratepayers Associations from various cities.
To Date we are proud to be affiliated with the following groups
Updated April 2018
3228 Residents association inc
Ararat Rural City Ratepayers Association
Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc.
Baw Baw Shire Ratepayers & citizens Association
Central GoldFields Ratepayers
Colac Otway Ranges Ratepayers & residents
East Gippsland Shire
Fawkner Residents Association
Frankston Save our Suburbs
Golden Plains Ratepayers & Residents Association
Greater Dandenong Ratepayers
Knox Ratepayers Ass
Latrobe City Ratepayers Ass
Loddon Shire Residents & Ratepayes
Macedon Ranges residents Ass
Morland Shire Ratepayers
Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers & Residents Ass.
Moyne Residents and Ratepayers Action Group Inc.
Mt Martha Ratepayers
Nillumbik Ratepayers Association
Ratepayers Victorian Mildura Branch
Swanhill Rural City Ratepayers Ass.
Warrnambool (currently being formed)
Whitehorse Ratepayers& Residents Ass.
Whittlesea Ratepayers Ass.
Yarra Ranges Ratepayers