Dear Ratepayers and Supporter.
RPV wish to advise you of the progress that we have made over recent times.
As President I am very proud that we have opened up eight new branches in the last 15 months.
ALL new branches are now providing their ratepayers with advice and guidance regarding problems they may encounter with their councils.
It is important to understand that once we assist with the forming of the new ratepayer group, the branch runs their own group as they see fit and as earlier stated we are there for advice and guidance. Some 8 to 10 inquiries are received a week for advice and guidance from our new branches.
The new branches opened are Geelong, Bendigo, Shepparton, Warrnambool, Sale, Maribyrnong, Horsham and Port Phillip.
As you can imagine councils do not like “Ratepayer Groups”
It is a fact that ratepayer groups are becoming a force to be dealt with by councils.
Our new ratepayer group in Bendigo advised us early in 2018 that the Bendigo Council were trying to acquire the land, of 1000 acres, from a family called Carter at Marong just north of Bendigo.
This family has had the farm for some 100 years and want to retain it.
RPV told Peter, the secretary at Bendigo, they cannot do that, but as the secretary said they are pushing ahead to implement a local by law where they could take over the land. It would seem that the Council had the intent to make the land “industrial land” once they had possession and would then turn the land into “residential land” which would create a huge profit for Council.
In July Peter advised us that Bendigo had indeed put through a local bylaw to acquire this land.
RPV then went into support the Carter family and wrote a very strong letter to the Local Government Minister and the Premier basically saying this is Australia and this cannot happen here. We were very pleased and surprised when some 7 days later the Planning Minister overturned the decision of the Bendigo Council and the Carter family retained their farm. A great example of the power of a ratepayer group.
The newly formed ratepayer group at Maribyrnong set up a stall at the local Footscray Festival recently and obtained the contacts of over 150 people who want to join their group. Ratepayers are “crying out” for assistance. REMEMBER THAT OLD CLICHÉ “United we stand divided we fall”.
You may be aware that some three years ago the then Local Government Minister, Natalie Hutchins ordered a review of the Local Government Act which had not been touched, outside of some amendments, since 1989. The review which was finished in July last year was very biased towards Councils.
This now lapsed draft carried the word “Councils MAY do this and May do that” some 330 times. Many good pieces of legalization that were in the present 1989 LG Act were removed in this lapsed draft.
RPV have been aware of this draft and have done a lot of work with the Upper House Members to point out the failings of this draft. Fortunately for our ratepayers of Victoria the Upper house had the numbers and rejected this draft and sent it back to the lower house for adjustments and with the State Elections held on the 24th November 2018 that draft has now lapsed.
We realized that the present Local Government Minister could table this draft again at any time, so we went into action and with the advice of a very clever person put together an excellent letter to the Local Government Minister, the Premier and all 80 State Parliamentarians to point out the failings of this lapsed draft. These Parliamentarians are the members who have to vote on this new LG Act when it is presented on the floor of Parliament for debate and they are the ones who will vote on the Bill. This letter was sent out personally to all the Parliamentarians. My committee has done a great job with this project. The very pleasing result of “the letter” is that after the Local Government Minister read the letter, he contacted RPV and ask that we meet him to have “a chat”. This is great news for our ratepayers.
Over recent months we have been invited to speak and be interviewed at parliamentary hearings. Not too sure about these hearings as nothing seems to come out of them. Local Government have excellent “spin doctors” to listen to the ratepayer and tell you what they think you want to hear and then do as they please.
RPV have been pushing for a Royal Commission into the operations of councils in Victoria.
There seems to be little accountability in the present council system. Questions we want answered are: how ratepayers money is being spent, why are contractors getting up to four times more to do a council project than in the private sector, why are some 70% of our rate payments being spent on council salaries. There is no control over who is issued a council credit card and how much is spent on that card and many more problems.
RPV have come a long way in recent times, but there is so much more to do.
There has been a culture allowed to develop over the last 20 years and we will not change that overnight.
One of the big challenges we have is to get these departments, IBAC-Auditor General-Ombudsman and the Inspectorate who are there to protect the ratepayers, is to get them to do the job they are elected to do.
Too often we hear these words “councils told us this and councils told us that” and in a lot of cases, those bodies believe what councils tell them, and this is not acceptable.
As we all know that is a disaster for the ratepayer, but RPV can assure you that we will not rest until we get this culture changed.
Over recent times we have built up an excellent communication with the media, which is so important.
We are aware there are some small groups out there who are not aware of RPV and it is so important that we connect with those groups.Power is in numbers so please encourage your friends and neighbours to join their local ratepayer group.
Our contact details are below.
Jack Davis JP
Phone 0412 238 974