Results of Councils’ Rates Variation Applications

The ESC just released their decisions of the rates variation applications submitted by a number of councils. They are:

9 out of 79 councils (11%) applied and 67% of applicants received approvals. This shows at least 89% of councils have the capacity to lower rates –  if we include the 3 unsuccessful rate variation applications, the real figure is 73 councils or 92% can afford lower rates for their communities.

The full report of the rational decisions and underpinning reasons are found in Overview-of-Local-Government-higher-cap-decis…pdf (159kb)  and there is the Q&A resource    Approving higher caps – Questions and Answers.

We anticipate several councils and highly possibility peak bodies will be spilling “blood” in the street, with ESC the main target.  If and when this behaviour reaction realises, then a lot will be revealed about and confirm the good governance culture of our councils and their peak bodies.

The decision report is rational, of high professional quality and based on very clear decision criteria that were well communicated upfront before the rates variation process commenced.  Applicants also had many opportunities to consult with the ESC, to ensure their applications meet the criteria.

5 Monash Councillors are saying Money First before Elderly People

Monash Council’s Grab for Cash

 On 29 Oct 2013, Monash councillors voted 5 to 4 to sell off the aged care facilities Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens. A conservative estimated value of sale proceeds is expected between $10m to $20m, if not higher. However, according to Cr Davies, after transaction cost reductions, the net cash return can be half, ie between $5m to under $10m.

The four Councillors who voted against it because:

  • there is no  good financial reason to sell; the financial problems are structural and can be fixed; it is irresponsible to sell during a poor
  • they have a legislative responsibility to listen and support a community who does not want the facilities to be sold,
  • Money and numbers do not tell the story – there is no understanding about the people impacts
  • Not enough solution alternatives have considered to support a well informed decision making.

The five who supported selling all agreed on the basis of:

  • Financial non affordability but failed to quote an exact figure of how much is needed to upgrade/refurnish the facilities – all they can say is “tens of millions”
  • There is no economy of scale because only 165 people are using the facilities
  • There is a professional industry that can best offer aged care  (despite people telling them our residential aged care facilities already enjoy over 20 years history of high standard of the quality of care).

 On the 28 May 2013, Council voted to conduct a review of car parking arrangements in Glen Waverley. Cr Geoff Lake said that “it was an exciting time in Glen Waverley; it was changing rapidly and for the better. Council is finalising the Glen Waverley Activity Centre Master Plan, which would be released for public consultation in the second half of the year. A successful Activity Centre needs its car parking requirements to be managed well. This Activity Centre currently has close to a surplus of car parking, but that situation will not last long”.

On 24 September 2013, Council staff concluded that current arrangement is not currently at capacity and suggest a review in 12 month’s time.

5.1 CAR PARKING : GLEN WAVERLEY ACTIVITY CENTRE

(PP:DIS6, PARK9)

From Council Agenda 24th September

INTRODUCTION

A review of the parking arrangements in the Glen Waverley Activity Centre has been completed. This review included:

  • Traffic surveys to understand the actual utilisation of parking in the centre.
  • A survey of local traders and Council staff to understand the issues associated with relocating parking from the Bogong (multi-deck) parking area to the Euneva East (multi-deck) parking area.

The parking surveys demonstrate that there is parking availability in the centre and the current arrangements are adequate based on current usage patterns. Further, the results demonstrate that the Bogong parking area is not currently operating at capacity except in the evenings (after 5 pm).

 Cr Geoff Lake expressed concern that the under capacity condition does not meet future needs and recommended to relocate the Bogong Avenue car-park to the Euneva car park not just based on his concern but support by the Glen Waverley Traders’ Association. Other Councillors disagree and/or view that there are other activity centres that require capital developments, not just Glen Waverley.

 In the same meeting, he also said as the chair of the Glen Waverley Activity Centre Master-planning Steering Committee he supported the $18-$23m proposal and presumed that potential funding would be determined via the Council’s budget process. The development of an integrated library and community hub was a key integral part of the master-plan.

The big question is WHY is Cr Lake proposing to support relocating Bogong Avenue car-park when it is underutilized today ? It is a no brainer that the likely reason is the integrated library and community hub is to be built on the existing car park site.

Ratepayers Victoria also believes that the sale of council aged care facilities is related to the Bogong Ave multilevel deck car park redevelopment proposed by Cr Lake. The reason is that Council has no other cash reserves and is hesitant to hike up rate increases for such large scale new capital works, and the sale has been engineered behind the scene way before 25 June 2013 Council meeting. What Councillors did not expect was the high community backslash, which will still continue despite the 29 Oct  per-orchestrated groupthink decision to sell.

 

Jack Davis

Share your budget review experience …

We encourage ratepayers to log their budget review experiences and leave an audit trail of transparency and accountability issues. We will publish this audit trail in this website – the information will be used as evidence to assist RPV’s discussions with the Minister of Local Government and also to help the Auditor General Office access case studies for their on-going audit reviews of Local Government functions. The first audit trail is the Monash case.

16 May Press Release – Review Findings: Councils’ Financial Management & Rating Practices

Press Release has been issued to highlight the major concerns discovered in the review of several councils’ financial management and rating practices. A recent April 2012 audit report on council’s performance reporting practices is currently available on the VAGO webpage  and the issues reported also impact rate pricing and confirm some of our investigation findings. Also see pages inquiry projects and election matters.

Food for Thought – Is Council Decision-Making Responsible?

Read this 31 Jan 2012 Herald Sun article – Example of governance questions that ratepayers can ask of their Council:

  • Has the implementation and on-going financial management of the decision been evaluated during its making?
  • Did the agreeing Councils consider other more effective strategies  that can better benefit the Aboriginal community?
  • Has the local ratepayers been consulted as they are funding the implementation and on-going expenses of their Councils’ decisions?
  • Has the Aboriginal community been consulted to confirm that this decision is what they want as best choice?

Council decision making has to be accountable – is it? Who owns decision accountability? What protection or legal rights  ratepayers have when no one takes accountability for poor decisions?

The evidence …..

The aboriginal funeral idea is out of line with directions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s national Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) framework. This RAP framework prefers organisations to pursue reconciliation through clear actions and commitments focussed on respect, relationships and opportunities (The Australian, 6 Feb 2012). Dr Calma (Reconciliation Australia co-chair) states that “RAPS are helping to build a nation that understands its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural roots and that’s something that benefits all Australians”.

Unfortunately, the aboriginal funeral expense reimbursement decision agreed by several Councils recently showed evidence of poor, irresponsible and discriminating Council decision making because:

  • As an advocate for multiculturalism, Councils should know better that  Australian indigenous people are made up of 2 distinct groups – the Aborigines and Torres Straits islanders. By excluding Torres Straits indigenous people in the Councils’ consensus decision, they have violated racial equality in their decision making and created disharmony in RAP execution.
  • The consensus decision creates public conflicts that divide the indigenous people and other Australians in the ratepayers community
  • There is no disclosure of financial funding and sound management to ensure no impact on future rate rises, which may also result in controversial public debates that adds to the unnecessary divide of the indigenous people and the wide Australian community.

 Council decision makers are community leaders and not understanding the governance requirements and public harmony of their consensus decision is no excuse. They can be asked to resign or  not stand for the next election, or even to be sacked as the growing preception is that they not  capable and befitting to represent their ratepayer communities.