Coun­cils face a tough task

Shepparton News - - VIEWPOINT -

There is no ques­tion the in­ten­tions be­hind rate­cap­ping mea­sures are sound.

The idea be­ing to make sure lo­cal coun­cils can­not con­tinue to raise rates year in year out, to suit their pur­poses.

And ar­guably it has lo­cally been suc­cess­ful in mak­ing sure coun­cils are kept ac­count­able.

To make sure they are dili­gent in find­ing sav­ings and not just pass­ing ad­di­tional costs down the line to city res­i­dents.

To en­sure the op­er­a­tion be­ing run with the city’s money is as lean and mean as pos­si­ble.

The al­most 5 per cent an­nual rate rises Greater Shep­par­ton City Coun­cil had bud­geted for be­fore the State Gov­ern­ment’s Fair Go rate­cap­ping pro­gram com­ing into force now look ex­ces­sive.

Broadly speak­ing, by stick­ing to key fi­nan­cial prin­ci­ples in craft­ing the city’s an­nual bud­get, the coun­cil ap­pears to have over the past two years man­aged to ably weather this storm so far.

Its at­ti­tude to rate-cap­ping ap­pears to have im­proved. Where the coun­cil had ini­tially been highly crit­i­cal of the stricter mea­sures and multi-mil­lion dol­lar holes which would ap­pear in the bud­get across a num­ber of years, the re­al­ity is the coun­cil is cop­ing well.

But as re­cent dis­cus­sions in­di­cate, in­clud­ing last week’s Shep­par­ton-hosted par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the sus­tain­abil­ity of lo­cal coun­cils, a look at the way Vic­to­ria’s coun­cils are funded ap­pears to be timely.

Rate-cap­ping seems to be only one fac­tor.

The panel of Vic­to­rian MPs vis­it­ing Shep­par­ton last week heard about cost­shift­ing mea­sures from state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments push­ing ser­vices firmly into the ter­ri­tory of lo­cal coun­cils. In other cases it heard about pro­gres­sive re­moval of fund­ing from pro­grams and not com­pletely re­placed.

It ap­pears the smaller re­gional coun­cils are the ones do­ing it tough­est at the mo­ment.

And from in­sights of­fered last week, some are try­ing to avoid cut­ting ser­vices at all costs.

But based on these in­sights, if cost shift­ing and rate-cap­ping mea­sures con­tinue to in­ten­sify and there is no longer fat to cut, it ap­pears this is where res­i­dents will start to see the cracks ap­pear.

When as­set re­newals need to be fur­ther de­layed, the works sched­ule pushed back and the vi­a­bil­ity of ser­vices com­pro­mised.

Hope­fully this point does not ar­rive and hope­fully mea­sures can be put in place to shore up the ca­pac­ity of small re­gional coun­cils to con­tinue to pro­vide the es­sen­tial ser­vices ratepay­ers have come to ex­pect from their coun­cils.

It is a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act and there needs to be a level of give and take. For now, it is pleas­ing the con­ver­sa­tion is un­der way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.