There was a time when shire councillors volunteered to help their fellow shire citizens without asking for payment, just expenses. Sadly it seems that nowadays it’s a money-driven career move.
Christian Roysland, Port Fairy
A few days ago I decided to check out the survey that Warrnambool City Council is offering to ratepayers for their opinion as to what course of action they should take with regard to proposed rate rises in the next financial year. Firstly I had to sit through nearly five minutes of video, hearing WCC’s facts and figures about commitments in the council’s area. Then I had to undertake a comprehensive survey about me, 11 questions in all. It was only then that I got to see the choices that were being offered to me for my opinion. In effect there were only two: raise rates or cut services. There was no option or mention of the council actually being more efficient and cost effective, which without doubt, would save a substantial sum of money. What a waste of everybody’s time; the survey goes on for an interminable time and length (over 150 responses required), and was obviously tailor made by or for council, to achieve the answer that it wants. No wonder Brian Kelson and the ratepayers’ association were so critical of the survey. As shown in The Standard recently, rates have doubled in the last 14 years. This represents a compound average increase of almost exactly 5 per cent per year over the period. How many The Standard readers have doubled their income in that same time span? Few I doubt.
As well as above average inflation increases in rates, WCC has benefited from a substantial growth in housing in some parts of the city over the same period. Obviously there are costs to the council when the housing stock increases but the council receives additional ongoing rates from these properties. In effect, the result is in an even greater rate income over those years than the 100 per cent increase mentioned above. Additionally, in the last couple of years, council has improved its financial situation by avoiding previous substantial losses from Fun 4 Kids to the tune of a significant six figure sum each year. Throw in a large budget overspend on the Liebig Street modifications; and now we hear the council has given Sharp Airlines a substantial sum of money to keep servicing the south-west. How much? Council won’t tell us. Why not? It’s our money that all of us have paid to the council in rates.
Now that the state government has imposed a rate cap on councils, WCC is crying poor. Well, how about the council doing what everybody else in Warrnambool has to do: stay within budget.
Remember that famous adage of Mr Micawber by Charles Dickens: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."
Council, it’s time to pull your belt in. Don’t expect to disadvantage ratepayers with reduced services and/or additional increased rates above the rate cap.
More money to you from ratepayers means less money available to be spent with local businesses. Instead, look to yourself, and seek to operate more efficiently and effectively.
David Pearson, Warrnambool