A FORMER City of Greater Bendigo mayor has taken aim at the council’s revenue raising measures, calling for a review of parking and a discounted waste charge for frugal seniors who create very little rubbish.
Peter Cox was mayor in 2014, succeeded the next year by Rod Fyffe and then voted out of office in the 2016 election.
Before leaving, Mr Cox called for the council to reduce its staff costs as a matter of urgency.
In his submission to the council’s 2018-19 draft budget, he lamented that employment expenses still accounted for 35 per cent of the budget.
Mr Cox also suggested there was unnecessary cost gouging in CBD parking fees to which councillors and some council staff might be oblivious because they had access to free parking.
“Since leaving council this has hit home harder with me as I now have to pay about $3.40 for each visit I make to the Bendigo CBD,” he said in his submission.
Mr Cox calculated parking was raising three times more than it cost, $4.6 million compared to $1.6m.
“As council has a policy that ensures the CBD is a strong and vibrant centre, it seems that one policy contradicts the other,” he said.
“The purpose of parking fees is to move vehicles on once they have reached their allocated time.
“It is fair enough for the policy to be cost neutral and not paid by those drivers who do not use the CBD, but it is unprincipled to collect fees so that other services are subsidised by parking fees.
“Council may wish to consider raising fines for those offending parking restrictions but I would encourage a review.”
It was unfair, also, for people not fully using the waste pick up service to have to pay the full charge including the $25 increase for recyclables collection.
Seniors on a pension were paying the same amount in waste charges as a family of four earning $200,000, Mr Cox said.
Rather than act to mitigate the rising costs of recycling, councillors merely passed the costs on to ratepayers.
And they had failed to sell the savings that would come from halving waste collection by moving to a fortnightly pick up.
“Council knew of China’s impending decision to decline receiving all recyclables 12 months ago yet little action has been taken to cut costs but instead to only pass it on to ratepayers,” he said.
“It costs over $1m a year for a single pick up of a kerbside bin throughout greater Bendigo yet when council had the opportunity to have a fortnightly pick up of waste, it has repeatedly failed to display leadership in selling the savings incorporated in such a policy.
“In its recent waste survey people were given the option of a weekly or fortnightly pick up with no explanations.
“Of course people are going to choose the weekly pick up.”
Mr Cox said the council needed to promote its bigger recycling bin to prevent contamination of waste with recyclables.
While she welcomed his submission, mayor Margaret O’Rourke defended the council’s waste charges saying rising costs were a challenge for all councils.
“The rises reflect the cost of providing the service; council does not make a profit from waste services,” Cr O’Rourke said.
She said ratepayers who held eligible pensioner concession cards could access a state government-funded concession on their rates and charges and the council offered payment options for people experiencing hardship.
Cr O’Rourke did not address parking revenue.
Comments on the draft budget were submitted by 18 ratepayers, many of whom also addressed councillors at a budget hearing on Wednesday.
Councillors will vote on the final budget in June.