Rate cut promise not supported

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A PROPOSAL to promise ordinary rate cuts for Frankston residents has been voted down by councillors.

The notice of motion raised by Crs Steven and Liam Hughes offered to “guarantee” a cut of at least one percent on ordinary rates. Councillors voted to reject the plan with a 7-2 vote at council’s 15 February meeting.

Cr Brad Hill told the meeting that “we need to do our due diligence” before deciding on rate cuts.

“My rates come in at around $2600 a year so I would get a discount of around $26. I pay by quarter so I would get a discount of $6.50 per quarter, people aren’t going to notice that on their rates bill. If you tell people they’ve got a discount they’ll probably think it’s a joke,” he said.

“This won’t result in people writing thank you letters but it might result in protests depending on what sections of the budget have to be cut or what loans you have to take out to fund this.

“I’m really happy to have a discussion on rate cuts but we have to have our eyes open, not make a promise first and then do it later. The proper way to do this is a budget in its entirety.”

Cr Steven Hughes was asked if he would like to speak on the motion but instead chose to wait until the end of debate. With the time approaching 11.30pm a majority of councillors voted to end debate and put the motion to an immediate vote, meaning Cr Hughes did not get to speak on the motion.

Cr Hughes told The Times he “was very disappointed with the NOM result and also the way it was treated. They allowed an unelected official to enter the debate, allowed other councillors to talk and then shut down the debate before the motions author could speak.”

“Rates are the single biggest issue that residents are interested in so to play political games to halt a discussion on this topic is an outrage. I was accused of damaging the council’s reputation by the mayor this week yet this behaviour shows the true nature of how council works behind the scenes.”

The mayor Kris Bolam said “the governance rules require finalisation of council meetings by 11pm unless a majority of councillors vote for a continuance of 30 minutes. This took place on Monday night, allowing the meeting to finish at 11:30pm. Hosting a follow up meeting on Tuesday would have been expensive for ratepayers and it is likely, due to the lack of clarity provided by the motion, that the outcome would have been exactly the same.”

“If carried, Cr Hughes’ notice of motion regarding a one per cent residential rate cut would have had far reaching impacts on council’s ability to deliver everyday services such as Home Help, Meals On Wheels, hard waste collection and the School Crossing Supervisor program. I don’t believe decimating such services, for a very small, one off rate reduction, would be in the best interests of the city,” he said.

First published in the Frankston Times – 23 February 2021

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