Most Victorians want their councils to focus on the three Rs – roads, rubbish and lower rates.

The final 2013 message for Councils is

  • Better roads,
  • Continue to collect rubbish and
  • Be brave to lower rates.

The evidence is in this Sept 2103 Herald Sun Article:

Darebin Council spent $34,000 to remove potentially dangerous street art on a Northcote median street. Source: News Limited

COUNCILS have been told to get back to basics after a major survey revealed that many residents are unhappy with the management of core services.

The State Government study of nearly 30,000 people found that most Victorians want their councils to focus on the three Rs – roads, rubbish and lower rates.

It comes after strong criticism of councils for running political campaigns, such as using ratepayers’ funds for the failed referendum bid to include local government in the federal Constitution.

More than 90 per cent of survey respondents said their municipalities could improve, with low scores given for management of roads, population growth, planning policy, parking facilities and footpaths.

Only about half of all Victorians believed that overall municipal performance was good or very good, while 35 per cent said it was average and 14 per cent rated it as poor or very poor, according to the Statewide Local Government Services Report June 2013.

“As in 2012, Victorian councils tended to score lower than their overall performance rating on community consultation and engagement, advocacy and particularly, overall council direction,” said the report……..

………….The report found that most ratepayers expected councils to live within their means – those preferring a rate rise in exchange for better services fell from 40 per cent in 2012 to 36 per cent this year.

On the positive side, the proportion of residents who believed their council was heading in the right direction rose slightly to 69 per cent this year, while those who thought it was going the wrong way fell from 23 per cent to 20 per cent.

On a scale of zero to 100, inner Melbourne councils rated best for overall performance with a score of 66, outer metro councils scored 62, regional centre councils got 60, small rural shires scored 59 and larger ones got 57.

Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said the survey results were important and the Government was working to introduce a mandatory reporting system in which similar councils could be compared on a range of factors.

“In an effort to try and keep rates down and contains costs, my department is working with councils so they can have better purchasing power through the sharing of services,” she said.

The survey found that residents were most happy with public art centres and libraries, with a score of 73, followed by appearance of public areas and waste management (71), emergency and disaster management and recreational facilities (70), then elderly support, community and cultural services (69).

But there was significant dissatisfaction with management of unsealed roads (44), population growth (54), planning and building permits (55), slashing and weed control (56), parking facilities (57) and local streets and footpaths (58).

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said there were no real surprises in the survey but there was always room for improvement.

For the full report – click here



Out of Control Budgets & Rate Increases

Last night on channel 7 today tonight – Council Rates through the roof

Budget management has a lot to contribute to rate increases – fixing budget and service management deficiencies, the manageable causal sources of rate hikes, is the first priority. This means fundamental reforms in budget methodologies, keeping to core services for rate charging, not overspending given state budgets for other services, changing work culture to spend what is affordable, increasing performance accountability & reporting, etc. Ratepayers have yet to see the new emerging trend in councils creating debts for the community, which is being revealed more into public eyes by the extraordinary blowout of Council employees’ defined benefit superannuation liability!

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.

Being ripped off with rate hikes?

Rate hikes are happening in many Councils across the country. We review a few budgets in several cities and are finding a common pattern – there is no transparent sound justification underpinning annual rate hikes. Some Councils are also misleading ratepayers in budget review – Councillors already agreed on rate increases and consequent budgets when Council allow the process of public review to occur. The process is not democratic nor is transparent and is most misleading.

Are council rates property taxes or fees for service?

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), an association of all Victorian councils, thinks that council rates are property taxes and yet many Councils charge rates based on the costs of services. MAV also states that “An increase in property values does not cause a rate rise. Council budgets are pre-determined to meet expenditure requirements, and include any potential rate rise. Property valuations are revenue neutral – they are used to distribute how much each ratepayer will pay, according to the value of their property compared to other properties within the municipality.”  Ratepayers need to see market value and operating cost drivers of their annual rate increases in their rate statements, not hook winked by obscure excuses in news and Council website media.