Council rates go up as federal budget cuts hit hard

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By: Daniel Wilson, Zoe Tovey and Jason Taylor

JuneCover01 Photo-by-Daniel-Wilson Photo-by-Irene-Grynbaum-2 Photo-by-Irene-Grynbaum Photo-by-Jason-Taylor-2 Photo-by-Jason-Taylor-3 Photo-by-Jason-Taylor-4 Photo-by-Jason-Taylor Photo-by-Michael-Wollan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last month saw the release of both our local council’s budget as well as the federal budget. A ferocious public discussion ensued in relation to the latter, with many up in arms about the proposed budget cuts.

“Hockey’s Federal Budget certainly delivered on the tough rhetoric – a special Roy Morgan SMS Business & Consumer Pulse survey carried out after the Federal Budget was delivered showed that 88 per cent of Australian consumers and 74 per cent of Australian businesses saw no benefit for them in last Tuesday’s Federal Budget,” Garry Morgan explains.

In the same week, Port Phillip Council released its draft budget, which will see council rates go up on average 4.75 per cent.

In this feature we examine the council budget, how the federal budget will affect Council, and lastly a perspective from within the protests that have gripped Melbourne recently.

Council rates to go up

An average rate rise of 4.75 per cent is proposed over 2014/15. Some ratepayers may pay more – or less – than the average as rates are based on individual property valuations.

Rate payers can vent their anger by telling Council. The City of Port Phillip is giving the community a chance to scrutinise the $32.7 million budget allocation! (http://haveyoursayatportphillip.net.au)

“Affordable progress for our community is at the heart of the draft budget,” Mayor Amanda Stevens said.

“Savings from a range of efficiencies will help us keep rates as low as possible while ensuring ageing infrastructure is renewed and services are maintained, or in some cases, improved,” Cr Stevens said.

“We’re proud of what we can achieve for our community with this draft budget. It’s prudent, progressive and supports our long-term financial sustainability.”

Port Phillip budget at a glance:

  • More than $2 million in permanent ongoing operational savings achieved, with a further $1.8 million savings target for 2014/15.
  • Capital program of $32.7 million.
  • Extra $390,000 to manage public spaces, including reserves and the foreshore, over peak summer holidays and for special events.
  • A $4 increase in the council-sponsored pensioner rate rebate to $148.
  • Focus on core council place-making priorities with operating funding of $1 million for the Seaside Project (incorporating the Triangle), $400,000 for projects linked to the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area and $892,000 for initiatives to make our villages more vibrant.
  • An extra $6 million in asset renewals funding.

Have they got the balance right? You can now voice your opinions through using the Online Survey at http://haveyoursayatportphillip.net.au

Local funding cut out of federal budget

Subsequent to the release of council’s budget, the federal budget may also have an impact on local funding arrangements.

Funding for Port Phillip’s popular Adventure Playground program will come to an end on 30 June, as Council is forced to cut back a number of community initiatives and programs in the wake of the federal budget.

Mayor Amanda Stevens said federal funding for the supervised activity programs at the St Kilda Adventure Playground in Neptune Street, St Kilda, and Skinners Adventure Playground in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne, had been discontinued in the new federal budget, and Council would have to seek a new source of funding for them.

“The Adventure Playground program is highly valued by our community and Port Phillip Council will be seeking alternative funding from a variety of sources to supplement the funding contributed by Council,” she said.

Cr Stevens said the Adventure Playground program involved much more than baby-sitting while children played on swings, and was designed to build cohesiveness and ensure local children from disadvantaged backgrounds were not marginalised in the Port Phillip community.

“Youth services workers conduct tailored activities that break down barriers to ensure all children can participate and access services and support as needed,” she said.

“Around 310 young people (6-12 years) and 165 parents/carers are involved with Skinners and St Kilda APG on a regular basis. The program supports young people and families that are living in social or emergency housing, experiencing disadvantage, newly arrived to Australia and from single parent/carer families.”

The AGP is not the only municipal program whose future is in doubt thanks to the tough new federal budget. Council may also be forced to scale back its Local Government Financial Assistance Grants, as indexation on the $2.5 million in annual federal funding it receives for them has been paused for four years. Council calculates this will take a $70,000 chunk out of its annual budget for that period.

The St Kilda Film Festival may also be affected by the budget cuts, as its government partner Screen Australia has had its funding cut by $25 million. Screen Australia contributes to the funding Council supplies to the short film festival, but it is not yet clear whether it will reduce this contribution in the wake of the cuts.

Federal budget makes local see red

 

Local News writer Jason Taylor attended the protest march on Sunday 18 May. The trams stopped for the protest against Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and their harsh budget cuts. Seventy-six government-funded agencies could shut down due to cuts in funding.

 

Rain, hail or shine, this Melbourne protester was going to rally with 25,000 other outraged comrades over the new policies being enforced next financial year. The scene of people supporting was breathtaking and overcrowded.

 

It was a weird vibe but Jason had never seen such anger and support across such a diverse cross-section of the community.

 

Media reports suggest 16,500 people will lose their jobs, which will be devastating for the families that rely on them.

 

Australia is a rich country with a solid financial record over the past years – yet the government is trying to sell the idea that our budget is in crisis. The real crisis, however, is that too many of us are only two pay checks away from homelessness.

 

The infamous wink-gate scandal brought to light not just how detached Tony Abbott is from the real lives of average Australians, but also how tough many of us have it.

 

“I’m a 67-year-old pensioner with three chronic, incurable medical conditions, two life-threatening,” Gloria told ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine. She said she had calculated that budget changes would cost her an additional $850 a year, taking into account GP co-payments and increases in medication costs.

“What do you suggest I cut out, Mr Abbott? Food, electricity, firewood?

“Or should we all just die and get out of your way?”

The Prime Minister offered this response: “Well, Gloria, I absolutely understand that you’re doing it tough.”

But he was soon interrupted by a clearly unhappy Gloria: “But you don’t give a stuff though do you?”

The following day protests became more heated. Police and protesters clashed as students attempted to run through a cordoned-off area at the steps of parliament. Both protesters and police were pushed to the ground in the brief scuffle.

Officers and students again clashed as police attempted to clear the intersection at the end of the protest to allow trams and traffic through. Victoria University community services student Jess, who refused to give her surname, was pushed to the ground by a male police officer after refusing to move off Spring Street, in an incident witnessed by The Australian.

 

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