Cross Post: Clinton Mead – Rate Rise? Yes, Prime Minister

I haven’t done much blogging for a while, but before Campbelltown Council votes to permanently increase the amount of money it takes from the people of Campbelltown by over $5 million a year, I think it’s important that the people have a picture of the process they have been led through at their expense.

I think anyone who has received the mailouts (link to pdf) regarding the special rate variation would begin to understand how one-sided this process has been. Whilst this has been sold as a consultation, it has been quite clear from the start that only one solution is acceptable, raising taxes on the people and businesses of Campbelltown by over 8%.

Here’s an example of the consultation presented:

The reality is that this minimum 3% to 3.5% increase will not address our existing infrastructure gap and will only fund the day to day operations of Council’s services, which is why we need to make a change now.

This is an opinion, presented as fact, and it’s arguably simply false. The minimum 3% increase would address our existing infrastructure gap with plenty left over if we stop spending millions on totally discretionary spending such as tourism centres, childcare, CD recycling programs, foreign aid, community grants, just to name a few.

One would also think, as part of a consultation, the council would present alternatives. And this is what I indeed suggested. That an alternative be presented without a rate rise that instead cuts back on programs like the above and redirects their funding to infrastructure.

I know selling service cuts would be a tough ask. But since we’re “consulting” I thought it would be reasonable to put that on the table. Perhaps the community might consider the option of some service cuts with a smaller rate rise.

The council didn’t want the community to have that option. My amendment to simply to put another option on the table, was defeated 13-1.

The icing on the cake came on Tuesday night. I was listening to the briefing regarding the report on the rate rise community consultation. Statistics were presented to councillors regarding the public acceptance of the rate rise via a phone survey.

It was unusually high, around the 60% mark.

I immediately thought something was suspect. Quite simply, people aren’t that supportive of tax rises, particularly what I’ve heard from the community on this rate rise.

The first part of the story was relatively simple and plain to see. Out of the five options:

  1. Very supportive
  2. Supportive
  3. Somewhat supportive
  4. Not very supportive
  5. Not supportive at all

three options, including “somewhat supportive” were included in the “supportive” 60%. Take these out and the supportive group is now under 50%, but not by much.

I thought something else was going on, and I immediately suspected a more alarming misrepresentation. I suspected that there were leading questions.

For those who haven’t heard of this effect, the best way to explain it is this clip from Yes Prime Minister

Basically, you can get any sort of response you want by controlling the questions before, typically by asking questions that have only one reasonable response. It’s called Response Bias.

So when I read through the physical report on the telephone survey this Friday, my suspicions were confirmed.

Here’s how the questioning went around the rate rise question. First:

How important do you believe it is for Council to implement programs that will provide better infrastructure?

Of course respondents are going to say infrastructure is a good thing, particularly when costs are not mentioned. The return of 95% respondents saying this was very important or somewhat important is completely unsurprising. Hence it has little value as a survey question. What it does to is set up a positive connection with better infrastructure in respondents’ minds.

The script read to respondents over the phone then goes further. Below I’ve placed it in full:

Campbelltown City Council believes that the long term sustainability of Campbelltown is important to everyone – from residents of all ages who utilise local roads, community facilities, services and open spaces; to local businesses and industry that rely on the city’s proximity to major transport routes, consistent growth and reliable infrastructure.

Council is now facing the challenge of balancing community expectations for services and infrastructure with the financial cost of maintaining these services and infrastructure into the future.

The challenge has occurred as a result of the long term ‘cap’ on Council’s rates by the State Government, and the decision by Council to refrain from increasing rates over and above this ‘cap’ for many years. The City of Campbelltown continues to grow, placing more demand on local infrastructure, a lot of which is now in urgent need of repair and maintenance.

In order to make Campbelltown an ever better place to live, Council is proposing a Special Rate Variation of 11% in July 2014, aimed at addressing the existing infrastructure maintenance backlog and ensuring that the city’s assets can be continued to be maintained to a suitable standard in the future.

Council would like to know your opinion of the proposal for a one-off rate increase of 11% in July 2014, which would include the 3% rate cap allowed by the state government.

Some parts are plainly misleading. The idea that the growth of Campbelltown will increase demand on local infrastructure is technically true, but what is failed to be mentioned is that growth increases the rate base. Growth isn’t part of the “cap”. With higher densities, this may actually ease maintenance costs relative to our rate base, not increase them.

But the killer is this:

In order to make Campbelltown an even better place to live, Council is proposing a Special Rate Variation of 11% in July 2014.

Shortly after this statement, the respondent is asked whether they support the special rate variation. They basically have just been told that opposing the special rate variation means not making Campbelltown better.

After all this propaganda, to get almost 40% of respondents not even “somewhat supportive”of the special rate variation is indicative of the level of opposition in the community.

Of course the survey suggests that “Council would like to know your opinion”, but by now it seems that council isn’t interested in your opinion; it’s interested in increasing its coffers.

What makes this whole episode not just laughable, but quite sad, is that more than $50,000 in ratepayer funds have been spent on this farce of an exercise.

I guess the next question to be asked is why? Has this whole process been intentionally designed to cynically present a lop-sided view of public support?

Probably not. Instead, what I think we’re seeing is a problem with our political system and culture. It’s not that most people in politics and government are bad people. There are some, of course, but by and large they are generally well intentioned.

What the issue is, essentially, is the over-inflated sense of importance people in politics and government place on their activities.

I don’t think that council intentionally said “In order to make Campbelltown an even better place to live, Council is proposing a Special Rate Variation of 11%” to skew responses.

The problem is this. Consider the idea of taking $5,000,000 from the people Campbelltown and putting it in council’s hands. Will that make us better off? Most people, whatever side they’re on, will consider that an opinion. But between council walls, it’s seen as close to an objective fact.

It’s seen as such an objective fact that councillors will vote against any alternative view even being presented to the people.

It’s seen as such an objective fact that council is completely blind to the completely one-sided and farcical nature of its consultation.

And this is why you will see council spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year promoting itself, sending mailouts and running tourism centres few even visit.

This is a repeated theme that comes up in my experience.

For example, the idea that governments should take our money and use it to present a one-sided view on a constitutional change was almost unanimously supported by politicians on both sides of politics, particularly in local government. When I was the only councillor to speak against it at the local government conference with hundreds of delegates, I saw perhaps five who put their hand up in support when it came to a vote.

Yet, most ordinary people would have found the above proposal abhorrent. What it comes back to is the same again and again. Politicians’ and government’s extraordinary belief in their goodness, so much so that spending your money to convince you of their goodness is good for you.

It’s quite likely that the rate rise will sail through 13-1. This was quite clear to me early on, when at the initial committee meeting Labor/Liberal were moving/seconding amendments to the consultation proposal together in a way that very much seemed like they had talked about what they were planning before. This level of co-operation was news to me, but I quickly realised it was unsurprising. Both had made election promises of “no cuts to services”, so saving both of their election promises seemed like a good point to come together on.

And that’s politics.

Update – And the plot grows thicker:

Micromex Research, the company hired by council to conduct the poll, does a lot of work for councils, as clearly seen on its website here. Scan down to the Ku-ring-gai case study, instead of the outcomes being “a report on the views of residents was presented to council”, the case study proudly states:

Ku-ring-gai Council was granted approval to continue the special NTRA rate variation for a further 5 years, which has allowed Council to begin building the centre.

Think about other councils pushing for a rate rise, and considering Micromex as a client? Consider how appealing they might consider this case study outcome, and what sort of survey they might expect to be designed for them?

I’m not the first to make these observations of Micromex. For example, this according to thisarticle, University of Canberra marketing academic Raechel Johns claimed the ACT government poll run by Micromex contained leading questions.

But in the end, this isn’t about Micromex, this is about council. Council had strong input into this process, including the questioning, and I presume (well, one would hope) approved the final survey.

Whether what the council has done is technically push polling is a debatable point. The Northern Territory has regulated push polling, and defines it as the following here:

In this section:

“push-polling “means any activity conducted as part of a telephone call made, or a meeting held, during the election period for an election, that:

(a)     is, or appears to be, a survey (for example, a telephone opinion call or telemarketing call); and

(b)     is intended to influence an elector in deciding his or her vote.

As it is actually a survey it meets part (a) and looking at the script it’s quite clear to me it also satisfies (b).

Some would argue that push polls are only those which have no intention of collecting results though. This is just a debate into definitions though, the primary issue is that when you conduct a survey with leading questions and one-sided information you don’t get a statistically valid result. That’s pretty obvious.

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61 Responses to Cross Post: Clinton Mead – Rate Rise? Yes, Prime Minister

  1. TerjeP

    The author, Clinton Mead, is the mayor of Campbelltown, and was elected as a Liberal Democrat.

  2. Frank Brus

    Where’s Barry O’Farrell? I thought a Liberal government would have had something to say about this.

    Don’t rate increases above the minimum have to be approved by the Government?

  3. andyd

    That was lot of small paragraphs.

  4. Rabz

    Local councils are out of control and need to be brought to heel.

    The two recent experiences I’ve had with local councils are quite instructive in this regard.

    Firstly, back in 2010 al- Marriqville council (I was living in the inner west at the time), decided in its infinite wisdom, that they were going to implement a BDS program against Israel. I ‘spoke’ with several councillors at the time about this obscenity, leaving them in no doubt about what I thought of them and their ‘council’. Implementing the BDS would have cost ratepayers millions of dollars. Fatty O’Barrell finally brought the whole disgusting farce to an end by threatening to sack the Council. This is a council, BTW, that will not repair potholes, maintain public parks, remove abondoned vehicles or deal with pests (e.g. rats).

    Secondly, the ACT clown council. They have decided, after a period of “public consultation” to impose more frigging speed humps on some the streets I use on my commute to and from work. I use these streets, because they went and installed about 20 extremely large rubber speed humps on a long sweeping road that took me directly to the nearest arterial road on my commute. The speed humps were installed due the sole complaints of a former ACT clown councillor who resides in that street.

    The public backlash against the proposed new speed humps is gaining momentum and there are plans for demonstrations against the flunkies installing them. I will be attending these demonstrations. Things are about to get very interesting here in ZP.

  5. james

    Our natural response to push polling is one of the more interesting psychological quirks of humanity.

  6. Demosthenes

    Print journalism stylebook, andyd – a paragraph should be one sentence, a maximum of two. A necessity when your writing space is a few centimetres wide. Since WordPress still thinks people might have a screen resolution of 800×600 and sizes the text space to match, it kinda works here.

  7. Walter Plinge

    My local council, Manningham (Melbourne) has been caught out manipulating polls in the past. And, like other councils, it prefers to increase local taxes rather than economise. We don’t need a sustainability officer, solar power on the council offices, and an art gallery.

    I’m sure many Cats have noticed how council CEOs and senior staff just circulate from council to council, bringing their outdated notions with them.

  8. TerjeP

    I recall Parramatta council doing this one sided consultation with us ratepayers a few years ago. We received this beautiful form with a list of ways we would like the council to spend more. You had to tick the boxes to show which services the council should spend more money on. There was no box called “rate reductions”. It seems nobody would ever want to keep more of their money so why even offer that option.

    Some time later I found a report on what they spend our rates on. Looking down the list of expenses I thought it all looked quite reasonable. Until I realised that was just the infrastructure maintenance section and I turned the page. What a horror story that was.

    Local government is out of control. It is just as well we have rate caps in place. But mandatory consultation is a farce and something councils simply game according to their own agenda. There is no case offered both for and against any rate increase. No alternate options explored let alone presented.

  9. Captain Bastard

    There’s a tourist centre in Campbelltown? Really?

    It’s a bit like that old Alexi Sayle joke about the “What’s on in Stoke Newington” flyer….it’s a piece of paper with the words “fuck all” written on it.

  10. Driftforge

    Clinton was also, rather oddly, a senate candidate for the LDP in Tasmania

    Go figure.

  11. K-Man

    What a statistically correct survey would overwhelmingly show is that ratepayers want better bang for our buck.

    The sooner we get rid of local councils and replace them with administrators the better.

  12. Token

    That request for a variation is very similar to a similar notice sent by Willoughby Council:

    The reason Council is considering applying to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a SRV is that Council’s Long Term Financial Plan has identified that more funds are required to maintain assets and services to the level expected by the community, while at the same time ensuring Council’s financial sustainability.

    After all, if the council is not indulged, it will not be “sustainable”. FFS.

    Read the way the options are worded:

    OPTION 1
    No rate increase above rate peg
    This scenario is a ‘business as usual’ model, where there
    would be no rate increase other than the rate peg.
    • Assets will decline over time, meaning increased
    maintenance backlogs and increased costs
    • Does not allow for new assets
    • Council would look to make further business
    efficiency improvements
    • Current services remain in the short term, but resources
    may need to be reallocated in the long term. For example:
    – Reduction in opening hours of some services such
    as libraries, leisure and community centres
    – Reduced quality of roads, footpaths and stormwater
    – Some buildings may need to be closed
    – The long-term functionality of some sportsgrounds

    Against this:

    OPTION 2
    Rate increase with Special Rate Variation
    This scenario includes a SRV of 28.8 per cent over five
    years to address the gap in funding to ensure assets are
    maintained to an acceptable level into the future in line
    with the expectations of our community.
    • Ensures assets are maintained and kept at the current
    level of service
    • Reduces ongoing maintenance costs and keeps
    the maintenance backlog in check
    • Allows for the renewal of capital projects
    • Does not allow for new assets or aspirational projects
    • Willoughby’s assets will be secured for
    future generations

  13. Noddy

    Walter Plinge
    #1176064, posted on February 3, 2014 at 8:53 am
    My local council, Manningham (Melbourne) has been caught out manipulating polls in the past. And, like other councils, it prefers to increase local taxes rather than economise. We don’t need a sustainability officer, solar power on the council offices, and an art gallery.
    I’m sure many Cats have noticed how council CEOs and senior staff just circulate from council to council, bringing their outdated notions with them.

    Agreed Walter… “We don’t need a sustainability officer” and we don’t need twinning with ‘sister cities’ which is an excuse for overseas junkets at ratepayers expense.
    It is ‘musical CEOs’ … when the managers feel uncomfortable, regardless of their contract, they move on and leave the councilors to take the flack. If councilors stand up to the administrators the Minister of LG is like to sack them as happened in Wangaratta. How’s that for democracy?
    The bottom line is councils can dispossess you of your home and your children’s inheritance if you do not meet their fiscal demands.

  14. Tom

    The author, Clinton Mead, is the mayor of Campbelltown, and was elected as a Liberal Democrat.

    This is at least half the story and should have been declared either at the beginning or the end of the post. The mayor is quite rightly at war with bureaucrats in his own council for using cynical propaganda techniques to push through a rate rise.

    I expect the fact that Mead has actually published this op-ed will become a major story in the Sydney daily press.

  15. brc

    The other flaw that is obvious here is that the polling would have gone out to all residents, but not exclusively to ratepayers. Everyone wants more money spent on things they use for ‘free’. Restricting polling to those who actually pay for it is another thing entirely.

  16. .

    Keep up the good fight, Mayor Mead.

    A lot of the poeple will be with on this, and know they have been swindled by spivs, pen pushers and your money grubbing colleagues.

    A tourist centre in Campbelltown? It’s called the football stadium.

  17. Ant

    “I don’t think that council intentionally said “In order to make Campbelltown an even better place to live, Council is proposing a Special Rate Variation of 11%” to skew responses.”

    I’m sorry, but you’re being naive.

    But your earlier argument on the discretionary spending is 100% correct.

  18. Ant

    One thing I’d like to know is how much of a sham rate valuations are.

    I think it was someone on this blog who wrote that Land Tax valuations should be made on the basis of the government being obligated to purchase a property for the value it pegs the LTV at – and the same should apply to Councils.

    Better still, that purchase cost should be extracted directly out of the bank accounts of the pen pushers and bureacrats who benefit.

  19. Paul

    “The bottom line is councils can dispossess you of your home and your children’s inheritance if you do not meet their fiscal demands.”

    Only with your consent, which is given without you knowing you’ve given it. If you enter any form of contract with them, be it rates, allowing their Officers onto your property, acceptance of their correspondence with your name altered or inverted (surname first, initials etc) or whatever, you have accepted the trust they have asked you to hold and consented to their terms. You have become the trustee and they the beneficiary, which is the inverse of how it is meant to be. You can extend this to all levels of Government and bureaucracy.

  20. peter

    Interesting to speculate what five adjoining local government entities -Gosford, Wyong, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Maitland – got to ask Micromex to do for them and how all five went down the same consultant’s path.
    If it was all to do with special rate variations then I say amalgamate asap is a major priority.

  21. Rococo Liberal

    What the issue is, essentially, is the over-inflated sense of importance people in politics and government place on their activities.

    Absolute gold!

    This applies at all levels of government.

    Unfortunately our friends on the left believe it too. The media of course has only three good sources of news: sport, celebritit gossip and politics. So they also have a vested interest in hyping up the importance of the latter.

  22. .

    That’s a cause, RL. The problem is the damage their failure, meddling and waste has on society.

  23. Chris

    The sooner we get rid of local councils and replace them with administrators the better.

    You really want to replace elected officials with appointees instead? The solution is in the hands of the ratepayers. If ratepayers actually care and also can be bothered to vote (voluntary voting at work)

    I think it was someone on this blog who wrote that Land Tax valuations should be made on the basis of the government being obligated to purchase a property for the value it pegs the LTV at – and the same should apply to Councils.

    Fixing LTV (and I agree there are problems) won’t actually help though. The council wants to raise $X – they either raise the value of your house which increases their rates, or they increase the % amount that you pay based on the valuation of your house. If you lower the first, they’ll just raise the latter.

  24. .

    If ratepayers actually care and also can be bothered to vote (voluntary voting at work)

    We have compulsory voting now for Councils in NSW. Your argument is invalid.

    What must be done is the States ought to stop treating Shires as cheap ways of enforcing a lot of unpopular regulation.

  25. johanna

    It also reflects mission creep and blurring of responsibilities between the three tiers of government. So, you have (as Rabz pointed out) local government meddling in foreign policy, which the Constitution clearly states is the province of the Feds. And didn’t O’Farrell get the NSW Parliament to pass a resolution about Turks and Armenians or something recently?

    Then we have the Feds poking their noses into State functions like health and education, and on it goes.

    Local government pollies,bored with rates, roads and rubbish, now have community arts officers, loads of greenie “initiatives” with staff and coercive powers to match, migrant resource centres, child care centres and so the list goes on. Rates are only there to be raised, roads are ignored and rubbish only matters to the extent that we are forced to pre-sort it at our expense and pay for extra bins and recycling.

    As local government is just a subset of State government, why doesn’t one of the State Premiers set the example by passing legislation that specifically prohibits councils from meddling in areas outside their clearly delineated remit?

  26. .

    Actually Johanna if I were a mayor I’d consider the idea of trading undeveloped land for monies to purchase state schools which may be poorly run or near being closed down and gift them to the community as charter schools held in a trust, which the Shire would end all ownership and supervision of.

    Would that be illegal?

  27. Rabz

    why doesn’t one of the State Premiers set the example by passing legislation that specifically prohibits councils from meddling in areas outside their clearly delineated remit?

    Jo, I’ve been advocating exactly that for years.

    The resulting ‘remit’ would leave local councils with about seven or eight obligatory responsibilities, with no other activities allowed.

  28. .

    A good idea rabz and I wish it also applied to the states. They have carte blanche other than exclusive Commonwealth powers.

    …but you need to reapply it to Commonwealth, since the engineers case and the dams case, along with tax shifting, has seen the Commonwealth be granted increasingly unfettered power.

  29. Demosthenes

    The other reform direction is to make local government stronger and federal government weaker, like the Nordic model that Tim Worstall advocates (while touching on the rationale for councils in the first place – putting government lose to the governed).

  30. johanna

    Dot, whether your proposal is legal or not would depend on the State legislation applying to local government.

    But as a ratepayer, I would regard that as yet another example of local government using my money (whether in the form of assets or cash) to do something that is way beyond its proper function and expertise.

  31. Winston Smith

    You all know, don’t you, that the Greens have been sliding their members into local councils for years?
    You didn’t?
    Oh dear…

  32. Rabz

    You all know, don’t you, that the Greens have been sliding their members into local councils for years?

    Winnie, Agenda 21 isn’t going to implement itself.

  33. In any opinion research, questionnaires can be designed and samples selected to produce either valid results or pre-determined results. For this result, the council staff and survey contractor must have colluded. There is no other explanation.

  34. Steve D

    Chris #1176164, posted on February 3, 2014 at 10:42 am

    The sooner we get rid of local councils and replace them with administrators the better.

    You really want to replace elected officials with appointees instead?

    Didn’t seem to work too bad in Victoria. During the amalgamation process, Kennett abolished all councils and had administrators for an interim period. I did not feel as though I suffered unduly; quite the contrary. Monash Council in Victoria regularly boasts it’s close to the top of the pile in terms of cost-effective rates, at least, but that’s not to say a little further pruning would not be in order.

    Also, +1 regarding the disclosure of a guest poster’s role in society if it is relevant to the context of the post.

  35. Demosthenes

    the Greens have been sliding their members into local councils for years?

    It was the only place they could win, and local issues play to their strengths. No-one wants to put them in charge of the national economy, but for nimbys who want their suburb to stay frozen in time forever more, anti-growth candidates (ie Greens and the like) are attractive.

  36. Jessie

    Guest Author

    Presumably the Council tenders for conducting survey research included criteria for adherence to professional/industry standards. And Code of Conduct/Ethics.
    Australian Market & Social Research Society
    Micromex does not openly advertise this.

    It is unusual to conduct a survey when the analysis of the administrative data (pdf) provides factual evidence.

    Depending on the actual technique and sample,* and then items+instrument (questionnaire), the in-house Council manipulation of results post-Micromex adds another dimension. Certain items may be weighted more than others.
    Compounding errors.

    Farm land (in pdf) is expected to contribute the most. I would have thought playgrounds, and so forth would not be used by these people. Unless hobby farmers who live/work in the city during week and travel to the hobby farm at weekend.

    * In being representative of the Council population and to be statistically valid, the population requires a known nonzero chance of selection. Alternatively Council may have chosen a frame and then sampled. The latter being more cost and time effective and meeting the required results. Or results could be pooled from various samples.

  37. Combine_Dave

    putting government close to the governed).

    An efficient way to control to govern the governed.

    Why do we need to elect hordes of people to oversee pot hole filling and rubbish clearing…

    Either restrict their actions to core services through legislation or make their ‘services’ part of the state gov and remove the duplication. Most people dont vote for local gov nor care much for it.

  38. .

    But as a ratepayer, I would regard that as yet another example of local government using my money (whether in the form of assets or cash) to do something that is way beyond its proper function and expertise.

    I’m not too sure the States have the correct expertise either, Johanna.

  39. .

    Either restrict their actions to core services through legislation or make their ‘services’ part of the state gov and remove the duplication.

    They don’t want it back. You are right though – why this can’t be done through negotiation with a property owner’s association is beyond me. Statists haven’t even considered that without a Shire run garbo service, that someone may offer to do so for their neighbours for a small fee!

    Furthermore, Johanna – if you’re a libertarian, you need to give the state an exit plan. Doing the above by Shires maybe too problematic and could blow up in your face. What makes it part of the local Government remit is land ownership. Selling local land to fund an asset which would improve the asset base of all of the landholders and make them rely on the fund’s interest payments is preferable to relying on everyone else’s payroll tax, stamp duty etc and GST contributions.

  40. Squirrel

    I’ll join with Johanna and Rabz in supporting the idea of some serious wing-clipping for local councils. At a time when many people are feeling under increasing financial pressure due to core living costs tending to rise somewhat more quickly than incomes, the last thing most people need or want is to be funding “bells and whistles” at the municipal level (likewise, of course, at the State and Federal levels).

    Aside from the financial aspects, it surprises me that a State and/or Federal Coalition government has not taken the opportunity to constrain a level of government which serves as a breeding ground and finishing school for Labor and Green candidates for the state and federal parliaments. Perhaps funding grants to local government need to be tied to efficiency and de-regulation agendas?

    More broadly, on the fiscal front, many Cats would be aware (and some may well support it, for varying reasons) of the growing push to replace property transaction taxes with a “broad-based land tax” – i.e. a tax which would apply to owner-occupied homes, in addition to council rates. I am familiar with the arguments in favour of such a move, but in keeping with the theme of this thread, it concerns me as another instance of government being too keen to raise revenue (or at least maintain boom-time revenues and spending) rather than constrain spending.

    And thanks to Captain Bastard for the laugh (so far!) of the day – there was that other Alexei Sayle line about the council still not having come around to flush the loo…..

  41. .

    Perhaps funding grants to local government need to be tied to efficiency and de-regulation agendas?

    If you want to raise efficiency, end grant funding.

    Look at this cavalcade of piss and shit:

    http://www.ourcommunity.com.au/best_practice/best_practice_article.jsp?articleId=5715

  42. johanna

    Yep, the whole community grants thing is just naked vote buying with our money. Local, State and Federal governments all do this. It is a way of funneling $$ to groups favoured by the grant-givers, or of attracting support from uncommitted voters.

  43. zipping

    Great article that articulates a lot of my thoughts on local Councils. In my experience many Council Officers are committed idealogical Left people and this is more of an issue and causes more problems than Green candidates making it on to Council. Councillors come and go, Officers remain for life entrenching idiotic Left thinking and waisting ratepayers money on issues that dont concern Council.

  44. Squirrel

    “.

    #1176248, posted on February 3, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Perhaps funding grants to local government need to be tied to efficiency and de-regulation agendas?

    If you want to raise efficiency, end grant funding.

    Look at this cavalcade of piss and shit:

    http://www.ourcommunity.com.au/best_practice/best_practice_article.jsp?articleId=5715

    Indeed, that would be the better outcome, particularly if done in tandem with more direct and explicit measures to ensure that local councils stick to their knitting, give up the frolics, and are transparent in what they do with ratepayers’ funds.

  45. Jessie

    Perhaps Campbelltown Council needed a survey as their asset database and/or policy is non-existent or does not comply with known standards?

    Or perhaps they spent the Federal Roads to Recovery money on other budgetary items and did some creative accounting?

  46. Jessie

    Dot,

    Given the arguments above, change the language:
    if employee is substituted for military we are discussing a feudal society. At both state and local government level.

  47. .

    I’m having trouble understanding what you’re saying here, Jessie.

  48. entropy

    Squirrel

    Aside from the financial aspects, it surprises me that a State and/or Federal Coalition government has not taken the opportunity to constrain a level of government which serves as a breeding ground and finishing school for Labor and Green candidates for the state and federal parliaments. Perhaps funding grants to local government need to be tied to efficiency and de-regulation agendas?

    Peter Beattie nobbled Qld local governments as a breeding ground for national MPs by preventing a sitting councillor from standing for election. At state or federal elections.
    This feature of Qld local government is probably unique as it is a highly decentralised state, and traditional national party training grounds of the myriad QANGOs and SMAs that used to exist in Qld were removed in the nineties. Also, greenies are thin on the ground in Barcaldine.

  49. Jessie

    Sorry Dot, I stated this incorrectly.

    The employees (as described above) have taken on the function of the military as in a feudal society/structure.
    Collectives of these employees and their ideologies. Marxism in a perverse jumble?

  50. johanna

    Nice move by Beattie, entropy. Mind you, it didn’t affect his Party, as they had unions as their own “training grounds.”

  51. Diogenes

    Yep so called consultation is a sham. I was at a public meeting in Wyong Shire when the Mayor was trying to justify a 12% rise (later pared back to 9%). He asked , he thought rhetorically, if council should spend 45k on an art gallery in Wyong – he was surprised when everybody in the hall yelled out NO ! – Council will now spend 100k a year on the art gallery.

    Every pensioner at that meeting talked about the need for kerbing and footpaths. We get the new local masterplan and discover we all love having no footpaths or kerbing !

    Everytime I open the paper I find at least 1 way to save council at least 100k a year , eg does council really need a life long learning unit ? Does Wyong really need a regional airport – because Wyong is one of the 10 most populous regions & the only one with without a regional airport is no real justification

    Sack Wyong Council now !

  52. Jessie

    An old paper on improving efficiency and effectiveness of Local Government, inc National Competition Policy, exemptions from Part 2D Trade Practices Act, reporting to ABS etc. Updated in 2013.

  53. Jessie

    Diogenes, my local council is not representative of most but it was known that ‘plants’ were placed at council and community meetings and chamber of commerce meetings. The plants reported back to their superiors or peer collectives.
    I guess overtime was claimed under some spurious project.

    Federal grants in Networking the Nation (NTN) was a boon for local council types, most $ were appropriated to exchange data instead of lengthy phone chats. Easily seen by the gross plagiarism in policies and ‘evidence-based’ statistics across the nation. Grass roots is an apt title for something that morphed from community development theories.

  54. Keep up the good work Clinton, councils have been expanding their reach into areas far beyond their areas of real responsibility for many years.

    The amalgamation of local authorities in Queensland which was supposed to make for greater efficiency and better provision of services, resulted in massive rate rises every year since, supposedly to help cover the cost of amalgamation. The reality is, that bigger LAs mean bigger empires, higher revenues, and bigger dreams of bigger and more expensive edifices and projects.

    The current wet dream of my own LA is to spend $30 million+ on a levee to ‘flood proof’ the CBD which first went under water in 1868 and has continued to do so on a regular basis ever since. Every business currently there has been bought and paid for since that time in full knowledge that the area is flood prone, but a need is seen for ratepayers to pick up the tab as it ‘will improve the amenity of the area’ and save crippling costs to business there.

    Like your own position, only one councillor opposes it.

  55. Jessie

    entropy at 2.22

    OT
    I am confused.
    The ‘tree of knowledge’, are there two trees? Or does the striker’s campsite differ from the site of the ALP manifesto pronouncement? Which is which, where are the tree(s) and what genus/species? Authenticity is needed for Australian curriculum and teaching please.

    ‘Yet the 160-year-old ghost gum has a place in history that transcends political lines.’ [ref: Qld Cabinet & Ministerial Directory]

    and
    ‘The campsite is approximately 3 km north east of Barcaldine and situated on the south side of Lagoon Creek. It is lightly treed, mainly with gidgee, and the only visible evidence of its use during the Shearers’ Strike is the remains of a camp oven made of ant bed, a blazed tree* and a light artefact scatter, some of which is subsequent to the strike..’ [ref: Dept Environment & Heritage Protection, Heritage Register Qld] (*coolabah)

    and
    ‘It is said that in 1891 a group of protesting sheep shearers founded the Australian Labor Party under the tree. Meeting records of shearers striking for better conditions show they were held at the main strike camp at the edge of the town on Lagoon Creek.[1] Non-union labour would arrive in the town by rail where they were met by the striking shearers. These impromptu meetings arose at a Cabbage Gum tree near the station where the strikers attempted to rally union members to their cause and block non-unionists.[1] In 1892, at the foot of the tree, the Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party, a foundation document of the Australian Labor Party, was read out.’ [ref Wiki Tree of Knowledge (Australia)]

  56. Noddy

    >Monash Council in Victoria regularly boasts it’s close to the top of the pile in terms of cost-effective rates, at least, but that’s not to say a little further pruning would not be in order.<

    Was this another finding of Micromex Research?
    Kennett not only reduced the number of councils, it also markedly reduced representation and rates continue to escalate annually. The managerial staff are handsomely rewarded. Now more than a quarter of councils are believed to be struggling to remain viable… see Whelan Report from 'Goldfields Council'.

  57. johanna

    Yep, Noddy, they continue to spend more than they earn and then claim that things are “unsustainable.”

    State governments that fall for this three-card trick ought to be kicked out of office.

  58. Rabz

    they continue to spend more than they earn and then claim that things are “unsustainable.”

    Yes, they really are that frigging stupid.

  59. Charles

    I reckon they should abolish councils across the board. With the introduction of the telephone and the internal combustion engine councils actually became redundant as prior to that everyone needed a body corporate to look after local infrastructure and services as the nearest body capable of doing that (the state governments) was located in state capitals and couldn’t get out to the backblocks often enough to be useful.

    However, that is no longer the case, and now we have all these public servants trying to extend their power over more and more parts of our lives.

    So, get rid of them, let planning, roads, and public places as well as rubbish become a state management issue (they can contract all the services they wish from anywhere they like, and it doesn’t require local knowledge to collect and dispose of rubbish, or tag dogs and cats, etc.) and so it can all be done without having to support all the little fiefdoms (or should that be thiefdoms) that we currently do.

    You might as well get rid of elected councillors now too, as the public servants in council don’t give them enough power to even turn a light on or change policy unless they like it, so all they do mostly is argue with each other while the CEO takes all the decisions that count.

  60. .

    So, get rid of them, let planning, roads, and public places as well as rubbish become a state management issue

    No, let’s privatise it. Do you really want to give this to a ALP Government like what happened in NSW for 16 years?

  61. I’m glad it’s not just us – Blacktown council are doing the exact same thing, and their leaflet was clearly made by the same people (from this to this, growth costs us more…etc – link above)

    This is NSW’s biggest council, it has revenue over $300 mil, no debt at all, $3bn in assets and it runs a lot of concerts and festivals, as well as childcare at a big loss

    The problem is the councils are too local – the major newspapers won’t look at small issues and apply pressure, and people don’t care about local politics, allowing sub-standard low-level party members to run their personal fiefdoms

    Only solution I can see is to make a super council for Sydney, as they do in Brisbane, which invites scrutiny and should bring economies of scale, it would also stop outer suburbs paying more than wealthier inner city ones

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