Friday, May 26, 2006

Cash grab

City Council milks the community for more cash to fund benefits

Melbourne city Council is looking at increasing its revenue base above and beyond inflation. Property values have increased above the cost of inflation and as such Melbourne City Council gains a windfall from the property boom. Melbourne City Council's rates are tied to property valuations (NAV) increased values means more cash.

John So and his term continue to demonstrate that they are not in control of the Council's finances with the administration being handed a blank check no questions asked.

Missing still is the breakdown of the details costs of Council administration. the true costs of international travel, internal catering, the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors limousines. The administration refusing to disclose or provide a breakdown of these costs.

It has been nearly six months since we requested this information and still no response from Linda Weatherspoon or the Lord Mayor.

The Herald-sun continues to expose the issues, reviews and analysis of the City Councils budget and expenditure - today's article is no exception as the gloss of John So's Commonwealth Games glory begins to fade.

Traders vent meter anger
Jen Kelly, city editor

CHILD care, meals on wheels and baby capsule hire are among hundreds of services to jump in cost from July 1 in a Melbourne City Council cash grab.

The new revenue-raising plans revealed in yesterday's budget are on top of new parking meters to be installed along Lygon St, Carlton.
Furious Lygon St traders vented their anger at a council budget meeting yesterday.

One distressed Carlton resident disrupted the meeting with a noisy outburst.

Traders stormed out after a move to delay installation of meters pending further community consultation was voted down by the council.

Fees and charges are expected to earn an extra $5.9 million next year. In the most extreme fee jump, meeting room hire at North Melbourne Town Hall will soar by a whopping 223 per cent from $170 to $550 a day.

Meals on wheels will jump 12.5 per cent to $4.50 a meal, occasional child care will rise 5.6 per cent to $9.50 an hour, and baby capsule hire will increase 5.6 per cent to $38.

Immunisations, pet registration, building red tape, food safety training, pool memberships and kerbside cafes will all cost more.

A controversial proposal to install parking meters at the Melbourne Zoo car park to help fund an upgrade of the parking area is on the backburner after it was voted down yesterday.

The council predicts an operating surplus for 2006-7 of $13.5 million -- but to achieve that will gouge $24.9 million out of its $112 million investment reserve.

Former lord mayor and former chairman of the finance committee Kevin Chamberlin last night said the budget contained huge cuts to services.

"It now appears the chickens are coming home to roost for John So," he said.

"The budget includes massive cuts, substantial fee increases and an unprecedented drawing from the council's cash reserves.

"The rates increase of 3.8 per cent is twice the average of previous years and indicates that rates will increase significantly over the next three years."

The $24.9 million drawn from the council's reserves will help pay to finish building Council House 2, or CH2, and other capital projects.

Lord Mayor John So said the 3.8 per cent rate rise was moderate, and services for ratepayers, residents, workers, students and visitors had been increased.

"We are spending more on community services, more on roads and infrastructure and more on parks and gardens," he said.

A bid by Cr Peter Clarke to reduce funding for the FINA World Swimming Championships at Rod Laver Arena next year from $1 million to about $250,000 failed.

Total budget revenue is expected to be $263.7 million, up from $243 million this financial year, including $138 million in rates.

The latest budget predictions show the council expects to reap a record $32.1 million in parking fees and $31.8 million in parking fines -- a $64 million total.

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