After a three-year holiday Valley Watchdog is back and ready to serve by keeping an eye on various happenings around our community including all three levels of government.
Local Press Fails Us
The impetus to return is driven by the failure of the local Murdoch rag to keep us fully-informed on local affairs. Examiner? Nonsense. It is just a megaphone for Richmond Valley Council propaganda and ‘feel good’ stuff. There’s precious little ‘public interest’ journalism any more as there was in the early days of the Rivertown Times and later on in The Richmond River Sun.
Rates Slug Again
So, what’s news? Well we’ve learned that Richmond Valley Council is up to its usual tricks of wanting to impose a further Special Rate Variation above the level set by the State government of 1.5%. It wants to do this every year until 2026 and probably right out to 2030. It wants us to pay for everything without State or Federal help.
By any measure the proposed rate hike is unfair on poorer communities. Make no mistake Richmond Valley Council is one of the poorest local government areas with many kinds of social disadvantage. Ratepayers and residents don’t deserve the ‘user pays’ approach to government funding driven by the State government particularly given the size of the local government area which has lots of roads and State agencies which use them. Why are we picking up the tab for them.
Evans Head Punished With Much Higher Average Rates
The proposed rates structure is particularly onerous if you live at Evans Head where the rates burden is the greatest across the whole local government area. Council has a long history of punishing the folks at Evans Head because of its opposition to amalgamation many years ago. It dresses up its rates structure as being a unified or uniform rates structure across the whole area but because rates are based on property values and properties are more expensive at Evans Head we get to pay much much higher rates.
Council: Mouthpiece For The State Government
The sad thing is council is not speaking up for ratepayers. It is just a mouthpiece for the State government, nothing more, which is run by the big end of town. Local government is, after all, just a branch of the State government and has no genuine autonomy. Gladys barks and we roll over!
To get a handle on this connection take a look at the NSW state government’s Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines which council uses to direct it in what it does. The Guidelines clearly stated that Council “…must give due regard to the State Plan and other relevant state and regional plans” Notice the word “must”, not “should” or “maybe”! Council states quite clearly that it uses these Guidelines to deliver its plans for the future and has an obligation to do so. So much for independence! So the message we get from council is: ‘We want you, the ratepayers, to have your say, but ultimately we answer to the State government.
Loss of FAGS Grants
The State government wants to look to be the ‘good guys’ in all of this but it has set the agenda for the big rise in rates by cutting back/suspending Federal Assistance Grants (FAGS) and demands local governments increase rates to cover the loss. They’re forcing the issue by starving us of funds. They are making big savings by doing this but VWD has the view that the savings will be used at the next election for pork barrelling particularly for marginal seats, at our expense. You will be paying for their election campaign.
So say NO to any proposal for an ‘above peg’ Special Rate Increase.
Council Has Poor Management Track Record: Get Your Own House in Order
Richmond Valley Council has a poor track record when it comes to managing ratepayer funds. It has wasted millions on failed projects, failed to bring projects to completion, and had major cost blowouts on big projects. And guess who the bunnies are who get to pay the price – the poor bloody ratepayers!
In the view of VWD, Council needs to tidy up its own mess and live within its means. It shouldn’t be coming to us all the time for extra funds. Enough is enough.