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.