Dear valued subscriber,
Interest rates might be at record lows but everywhere you turn living costs are rising.
Fuel prices are at historic highs with motorists paying about $20 more to fill their tanks each week than a few months ago.
House prices are at historic highs in the region, so too rents.
Utility bills keep coming and so too do the price hikes.
For consumers, especially younger members of our community, they have never experienced such developments. And if the economic pundits are right, interest rates will rise at least a couple of times before Christmas adding to the pressure on the purse-strings.
This week we reported an independent tribunal had approved pay rises for councillors.
The increased pay for south-west councillors will add more than $250,000 to the bill ratepayers foot over the next five years across the region.
The tribunal said most council members who responded to a questionnaire believed their allowances were too low, but submissions from ratepayers and community groups strongly opposed an increase.
"The tribunal acknowledges that these increases are significant," it said.
Times have certainly changed.
The honour of serving your community was once considered enough of a payment for being a councillor.
But payments were introduced to maintain the quality of candidates because those willing to volunteer their time in the fast-paced, time-poor modern world were declining.
Warrnambool's mayor would be paid $107,189 within five years. Five years ago the mayor was paid $76,521.
Some argue it's a full-time job and the various commitments make it impossible to hold down a regular job or continue running a business.
Councillors will receive more than $31,000 for their part-time job.
The old saying 'if you pay peanuts you get monkeys' springs to mind when making arguments that councillors should be paid.
'Who'd want to be a councillor?' is another line commonly used given the complexities, politics and inevitable criticism councillors encounter.
Pretty quickly the pendulum swings in favour of paying councillors.
But in a state government-imposed era of rate capping, can councils, and ratepayers, afford these latest increases in pay for councillors?
Amid a backdrop of COVID-19 financial pressures, rising costs of maintaining and building infrastructure, higher utility costs etc, what does the future look like?
Warrnambool's mayor Richard Ziegeler said he was embarrassed at the size of the new package.
His deputy Debbie Arnott is also uncomfortable with what her allowance will become.
At what point should allowances hit a ceiling? Are we there now or will they too head sky high?
The uncertainty surrounding Portland District Health's future intensified this week with maternity services suspended, meaning mums-to-be have to travel to Warrnambool to welcome their children into the world.
The feel-good story of the week was the incredibly generous donation from Warrnambool photographer Perry Cho and Breakwater Insurance's Jeff Dennis to Foodshare. All proceeds from Perry's stunning calendar were gifted to the organisation to help those in need.
Warrnambool's mayor Richard Ziegeler might have made a mistake in silencing former Cr Brian Kelson at a recent council meeting but he won't be apologising for it.
Can science save Port Fairy's East Beach from erosion?
The district's childcare crisis is worsening with a shortage of carers. A planned new centre, which would have helped ease waiting lists, has been delayed.
Warrnambool's former rubbish tip at Thunder Point that later became a trotting track is now set for a new use with demolition work on the harness racing facilities starting this week. But it's unclear what the future holds for the site.
There was plenty of colour and fun across the district as St Patrick's Day celebrations were staged.
If you missed last weekend's Port Fairy Folk Festival, check out this wrap up.
Don't forget to check out some of other stories below that made headlines this week.
Until next week,
Greg Best, Editor, The Standard
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