Keep it sim­ple, stupid 45

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

IT WAS all the rage in the late 1970s for lo­cal coun­cils to join the rush to get on the nu­cle­ar­free band­wagon. By 1983 there were 38 Vic­to­rian coun­cils with anti-nu­clear poli­cies and a pro­lif­er­a­tion of sub­ur­ban nu­clear-free zones.

Richmond coun­cil, pred­i­ca­bly, was one of the first to erect nu­clear-free zone signs on its bound­aries.

Push­ing sim­i­lar Left-wing and green po­lices has be­come a lot more preva­lent since then, with Vic­to­rian coun­cils in­creas­ingly stick­ing their noses into po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues over which they have no con­trol or in­flu­ence.

They are not there to pro­mote po­lit­i­cal agen­das and pet projects, yet so many do — as has been ev­i­denced by coun­cil-led cam­paigns for same­sex mar­riage, cli­mate change, bet­ter deals for refugees and the scrap­ping of Australia Day.

As the Sun­day Herald Sun is re­veal­ing to­day, lo­cal coun­cil­lors have also con­tin­ued to have their snouts deep in the trough of travel jun­kets and other perks.

Since Novem­ber last year, City of Mel­bourne coun­cil­lors have taken seven over­seas jaunts, while six fur­ther trips have al­ready been ap­proved — at a cost of $202,788.

City of Yarra ratepay­ers are be­ing slugged $2250 so mayor Amanda Stone can at­tend a cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Ger­many.

City of Casey ratepay­ers had to foot the es­ti­mated $16,000 bill to send mayor Sam Aziz, Cr Wayne Smith and two staff to China as part of an “eco­nomic part­ner­ship del­e­ga­tion”.

In the main, th­ese jun­kets are of lit­tle, if any, ben­e­fit to ratepay­ers, although so-called busi­ness mis­sions may be worth­while if they gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for lo­cal firms.

We are to­day also re­veal­ing sev­eral other ex­am­ples of the ratepayer dol­lar be­ing wasted by coun­cils. There is the $5.5 mil­lion Frankston coun­cil is spend­ing on 50 pieces of street fur­ni­ture for its Wells St re­vamp.

Yarra coun­cil is pro­vid­ing 15 bi­cy­cles, worth up to $1500, and nine $4000 elec­tric bikes, for its staff, de­spite the fact the Greens­dom­i­nated coun­cil’s car fleet al­ready has 114 ve­hi­cles avail­able for work­ers to get around in.

And City of Mel­bourne coun­cil­lors racked up $300,000 in ex­penses over four years, for such things as taxis and mo­bile phones.

Coun­cils have a de­cent pool of money to squan­der be­cause our 31 metropoli­tan coun­cils now col­lect a yearly aver­age of $850 in rates and charges for ev­ery man, wo­man and child — that means a record $3.9 bil­lion will flow into coun­cil cof­fers this fi­nan­cial year.

Too many of the coun­cil­lors who have ac­cess to th­ese bulging cof­fers are blowhards who are just try­ing to build their pro­files so they can try to pur­sue a ca­reer in politics.

Far too few of them are mo­ti­vated solely by want­ing to serve the ratepay­ers who voted for them.

There is am­ple ev­i­dence that at best there is mis­man­age­ment in our coun­cils, and at worst they are in such a par­lous state they need a rad­i­cal over­haul, in­clud­ing far greater scru­tiny and over­sight.

Coun­cils and coun­cil­lors need to get back to ba­sics — such as con­cen­trat­ing on the core func­tions of col­lect­ing rub­bish, re­pair­ing roads and foot­paths and run­ning a work­able and ef­fi­cient town plan­ning regime.

They need to get off their soap­boxes and get back to the job of mak­ing their mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties bet­ter places to live.

They also need to spend ev­ery cent col­lected in rates wisely — and jet­ting off to Tai­wan for the EcoMo­bil­ity World Congress, as one City of Mel­bourne coun­cil­lor is, at a cost to ratepay­ers of $2735, is not wise spend­ing.

We are putting coun­cils firmly on notice that we will con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate and ex­pose coun­cil cor­rup­tion, in­com­pe­tence, waste­ful­ness and med­dling in po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues they have no busi­ness med­dling in.

Com­mend­ably, the An­drews Gov­ern­ment has shown it is will­ing to act on be­half of ratepay­ers when coun­cils go off the rails.

Con­tro­ver­sial Gee­long mayor Dar­ryn Lyons and his coun­cil were sacked in April last year and ad­min­is­tra­tors ap­pointed.

Since then the Cen­tral Gold­fields shire coun­cil has also been axed amid claims of mis­man­age­ment.

And just last week we re­vealed a mon­i­tor has been ap­pointed to over­see the oper­a­tions of the dys­func­tional Frankston coun­cil.

Ratepay­ers Vic­to­ria pres­i­dent Jack Davis told us then that ratepay­ers have had enough of coun­cils go­ing “berserk” and op­er­at­ing out­side their re­mits.

We couldn’t agree more.

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