Time to get out the axe
OUR shire council never ceases to amaze.
Four months ago, new Cr Ben Bell said the shire could cut rates by at least eight per cent by reducing costs in key areas that he read out to the council’s April meeting.
When the full text of his speech was published a week later in the May Herald, it sparked howls of outrage from longer-serving councillors who claimed Cr Bell was misleading ratepayers and spreading ‘half-truths’.Read more
At its May meeting, the council directed Shire CEO Stan Scott to “review” Cr Bell’s claimed cost cuts to identify “factual errors’ and “correct the public record’ in the shire newsletter and the Herald.
No corrections appeared in the next two shire newsletters, and the Herald is still waiting to hear back from Mr Scott.
Fast forward to June when Mr Scott put two rates recommendations to the council – one for a “zero” per cent increase and the other for 0.9 per cent, both apparently fully costed and achievable.
The 0.9 per cent increase was passed 4-3 after the zero amount was lost 5-2.
Cr Judy Dow said she had attended two budget workshops and “been through the figures quite thoroughly – I am confident we can come in at 0.9”.
However, the decision lacked an absolute majority of five of the shire’s nine councillors and was declared invalid.
Fast forward once more to last month when the same four councillors who backed 0.9 per cent in June voted 5-4 for a surprise new recommendation put forward by Mr Scott for a 2.2 per cent increase.
What’s going on?
How can our shire go from a fully costed zero per cent increase to 2.2 per cent in the space of only four weeks?
Worse still, if you are one of 900 ratepayers with “lifestyle” blocks in areas such as Morangup, Julimar, Coondle and Hoddys Well, your rates will jump by 3.4 per cent – nearly four times Perth inflation – because the shire also plans to impose differential rates on your land.
Shire President Brian Rayner said the council needed higher rates for a bigger surplus to avoid future financial pain.
However, the five councillors who voted last month for higher rates are the same ones who never publicly questioned the cost of wasting $570,000 of your money on legal fees in the previous four years.
And what happened to disproving Cr Bell’s claim that rates can be cut by eight per cent if costs are reduced elsewhere?
Surely it’s time to get out the axe.