Calls to cut council costs, freeze rates

Cardinia Shire Council said they were currently considering options in relation to rates and future budgets. 138931_23

By Mitchell Clarke

Cardinia Shire Council and Casey Council are yet to make a decision on what action they’ll take to minimise Covid-19’s economic impact, despite increased pressure from advocacy group Ratepayers Victoria to freeze rates.

The state’s premier ratepayer advocacy group is urging local councils to unanimously agree on a number of measures to reduce ratepayer costs during the global pandemic.

Ratepayers Victoria (RPV) want local councils to immediately suspend rates and special levy charges, stop all project spending, defer non-essential projects, suspend parking infringement fees and promise to not increase rates next year.

The group also want council’s to enforce chief executive salary cuts of at least 25 percent, stand down all contractor or casual staff and redeploy existing staff to manage all enquiries by telephone.

“In light of the global impact Covid-19 is having, it is vital that councils take a leadership position in getting back to the absolute basics of local government,” RPV president Dean Hurlston said.

“It is time for a people’s revolution in local councils, scale down the spending and lower the cost to households, it’s the only decent thing to do – millions have an will lose their jobs and businesses.”

Victorian local councils bring in an annual revenue of about $10 billion, with a large portion derived from fines and charges, according to the RPV.

In a statement to the Gazette, a spokesperson from Cardinia Shire Council said the council was currently considering options in relation to rates and future budgets.

“At this time council has not made any decisions,” the spokesperson said.

“We continue to follow the advice and recommendations of the Victorian and Australian Governments to ensure to the best of our ability the health and wellbeing of our community.”

The City of Casey is also yet to make a decision regarding a freeze on rates but said they were providing flexibility to affected customers, where possible.

“We appreciate that this is a very challenging time and that many in our community are experiencing hardship,” Casey Council CEO Glenn Patterson said.

“Any decisions around rates and charges will need to be carefully considered once we have a clearer understanding of the impact of the pandemic on services and resourcing needs.

“Where possible we are providing flexibility to affected customers and encourage anyone unable to meet their payment due dates to get in touch with us as soon as possible to make arrangements and discuss potential relief options.”

For struggling businesses, Casey Council is in the process of developing a package of local initiatives to offer support and relief to the community.

Meanwhile, Baw Baw Shire Council is investigating options and will prepare a report to be presented at their next council meeting.

“Options are being investigated to postpone rates payment deadlines as well as reviewing interest charges on late payments,” a spokesperson said.

“Options are also being investigated to see how council can assist local businesses directly with relief for rates, fees and charges.”

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