Keep it simple, stupid 45
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.