Whenever Maribyrnong ratepayers demand lower rates Councillors and Directors are quick to retort “What services do you want to cut?”
The biggest rate burdens are not community services and infrastructure. They are un-funded State Government obligations. MPs pass laws and instead of funding them in the state budget and delivering them using state public servants, they push the service delivery and the costs onto Councils.
This sleight of hand means State Government MPs and Bureaucrats have a lot more money to spend on themselves. MPs get 11% pay rises, overseas trips and electorate staff. Bureaucrats get to attend meetings (lunches) sign off on policies, have life-long employment and retire comfortably. They and their retired MP colleagues might even sit on a few state government task forces here and there to pad out their generous public super.
Meanwhile, Council rates skyrocket and ratepayers fume and State MPs escape accountability for their prolific and expensive legislation and regulations.
The following list is not exhaustive. It has taken a lot of close investigation of Council policies, operations and financial documents over two years, to reveal these costs.
This list is only a beginning. Any costs are either from the Maribyrnong Council Budget, Financial Year Statements or have been provided by Council officers after questioning.
Council Elections. Bill for the current Council election $447,000. VEC invoices the council.
Auditing the Council. Bill from the Auditor-General’s department to Council $60,000.
Any investigations of corruption : the Local Government Inspectorate invoices the Council for investigations. None that I’m aware of in Maribyrnong, but imagine the poor ratepayers in Casey Council.
Planning department. Net cost to Maribyrnong ratepayers = $7.8m But local ratepayers have no authority to block unsuitable developments even though we pay for the planning department. (and the state government legislation through state and federal taxes.)
· Food Act enforcement (checking restaurants and food outlets for safe food handling practices.)
· Enforcing the Tobacco Act and Public Health and Wellbeing Act.
Infrastructure Department net cost = $31m
· Subdivisions and re-zoning advice for other Council areas (why don’t these other Council areas get advice straight from the state government planning staff?)
· Drainage under roads
· Stormwater drains
· Sewerage discharge points
· Flood management plan
· Electric Line Clearance Plan (i.e. checking for fire hazards and clearing trees from lines)
· Checking and maintaining fire hydrants
· Checking and maintaining CCTV, syringe and sharps facilities
· Environment Protection Agency (EPA) work such as land contamination registers, land remediation
Compliance and Regulatory Services department $590,000 (Budget 2020-21)
· This department managers paperwork Council has to do for Government, such as policies required under legislation
· It also prepares council agendas
· This department costs more than :
o Recreation services ($466,000)
o Arts and culture ($518,000)
o Maternal and child health ($207,000)
o Youth services ($217,000)
o Neighbourhood community centres ($131,000)
Committees and Memberships
There are several committees that council pays to belong to, which are essentially a collection of other Councils all working together. Memberships like these are now mandated in the new Local Government Act 2020.
Municipal Association of Victoria annual membership $55,000
o MAV recommends services to Councils - one was SKM the waste company that went bust.
o MAV lobbied for Councillors to be paid by VIRTIP. (VIRTIP awarded Ministers an 11.8% pay rise in September last year)
LeadWest membership $40,000 + $6,000 overheads
o This committee lobbies federal MPs for funding for western suburbs. (funding requires ratepayer co-payments)
Inner Melbourne Action Plan (IMAP) membership $42,000
o This committee is to co-ordinate lobbing for state infrastructure for Stonnington, Port Phillip, Maribyrnong and a couple of other Council areas.)
Consultants and lawyers – difficult to cost because there’s no line item in the budget or the annual report or the Financial Reports. But here’s a list to get started – all these costs have been revealed only by asking questions.
o Metropolis : $25,000 a year for the ‘official’ community survey conducted because it’s a government requirement. Questions are based on the 58 measurements in the ‘Know Your Council’ website run by Local Government Victoria (the Minister’s Department).
o Maddocks Lawyers. Governance Policy (required by law): Council paid Maddocks to review the governance policy this year, and the final policy failed to include recommendations from the Ombudsman to improve Council transparency and accountability.
I repeat, this list is not exhaustive.
So next time a Councillor or Officer asks “What services do you want to cut?” the answer is clear “All the State Government services that the State should be paying for.”
I am running for Council in the Yarraville Ward. Vote 1 Verity Webb to start pushing these costs back to the state MPs where they came from, and onto the State Budget, where they belong.
Authorised by Verity Webb P O Box 388 Yarraville 3013