Herald Sun - Councils don't let side down

The City of Melbourne yesterday announced a rates freeze – excellent news for ratepayers in the capital city, but what about the millions of other ratepayers around Victoria?

For months, we have been calling for all councils to freeze rates to ease this financial strain on Victorian families and businesses — originally for those affected by the horrendous bushfires, and now COVID-19.

Currently, there is absolutely no obligation for local councils to freeze their rates and the Andrews Government has shown no interest in forcing them to do so.

The State Government has no package to assist councils with a revenue shortfall, which is inevitable in coming months as families and small businesses struggle to pay their rates.

I’ve been critical of the City of Melbourne before, but I take my hat off to them in leading the way on this, as it is an important strategy towards recovery.

Not all councils have understood that the world has changed, and they must focus on core service delivery. A mate was trawling Seek yesterday and found a job being advertised at the City of Yarra. They are recruiting a temporary senior co-ordinator of communications and engagement for $126,617, as well as super,and a rostered day off each month.

Surely,given the current situation, the City of Yarra could do without this temporary spin doctor?

Councils were given extra time to develop budgets to allow for the changed economic conditions.

Councils must focus on essential services, not wacky political campaigns, or optional extras that in normal times might be nice — but not now. They must readjust their balance sheets for a 2020-2021 financial year that will be Australia’s economically toughest year since 1991.

Councils have an important role delivering vital services during this pandemic. Disadvantaged regions and smaller shires won’t have the financial capacity of larger

councils to cope, so there is a role for the state government to assist these councils throughout this crisis, like New South Wales with its $395 million support package.

Frankly, I don’t know how any council could look their ratepayers in the face and slug them with a rate rise next financial year. The Andrews Government must step in if councils don’t get the message. There will be economic pain as we come through this pandemic and attempt to restart the economy.

Everyone is going to have to do their bit, and councils must not let the side down.