Over the horizon

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 15-Dec-2017

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Submission number 45 to the state government’s recent inquiry into the sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria’s rural and regional councils was written by the City of Greater Bendigo.


The inquiry this week tabled all submissions, coincidently at about the same time the council released its latest wish list, ahead of the November 24, 2018 state election.


Creating the world’s most liveable community was the audacious and bold title to the election priorities project document, but we should always dream big.


But these two important documents feed into and off one another and cannot be considered in isolation.


It’s fine, and fitting, for the state government to consider and hopefully fund important projects for our city such as the government jobs hub, better courts and upgrades to many facilities and programs, but the sustainability of council must also be addressed, and now.


Cost shifting are two words no council wants to hear about, and probably few readers want to read about, but it is real and we all pay for it.


Cost shifting means a greater percentage of our rates goes towards paying for services that should be funded on a fairer and more equitable basis. 


It’s a bit like having a friend who expects you to pay for more than your fair share of a present or a round of drinks, time after time.


Greater Bendigo’s submission to sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria’s rural and regional councils details how in 2015/16 ratepayers coughed up approximately $3.78 million of their expected fair share for library funding, planning services, maternal and child health, school crossing supervisors, and the State Emergency Service.


We all expect to have access to these services, and for them to be adequately and fairly funded, but they are not.


In the next 11 months, we can all expect a barrage of announcements in the lead up to what is expected to be a very close and hard fought state election. 


There will undoubtedly be announcements of some very exciting bricks and mortar projects, and we welcome such announcements.


Look to the election priorities document and the wish list is long… new courts, a high end hotel, city centre development, the Bendigo baths, the government hub, expansion of Bendigo Metro Rail and redevelopment at the Bendigo station, an upgraded terminal at Bendigo airport, regional sports facilities, and so on.


But for the sake of Bendigo, we need to look over the horizon at the pressures imposed on our community by cost shifting, and that cost shifting comes from both state and federal governments and has been happening for decades, slowly getting worse and tightening its grip on the council’s purse strings.


Fairness is a word often bandied about and it’s mentioned a lot in this editorial.


It’s also something we’d like to see more of.

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