Labor and Greens set to slug ratepayers again

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Regular column of Socialist Party Councillor in Yarra, Stephen Jolly

Originally published in the June edition of ‘The Socialist’

Last month the draft Yarra Council budget was released. It was supported by the ALP, Greens and two right-wing Independents on Council. The Socialist Party will oppose this budget as we have done against all the Green/ALP-supported budgets over the past years.

The budget increases rates by an average of 4.5% with even higher increases later this year when the bi-annual rate revaluation kicks in. Inflation is currently about 3% and therefore the rate rises eat into the income of ordinary residents.

In fact if the Greens had there way rate rises would be even higher than 4.5% – but that was too much for the ALP and Independents to swallow in a State election year.

Charges for services, fines and fees were also increased by more than the rate of inflation – with the worst rises being in child care where fees rose by about 7%. The Melbourne Leader reported: “the annual cost of putting a child in childcare for five days a week will rise by $1040 to $19,370”.

There was greater spending on some one-off projects, which the Socialist Party supports, such as money for the children’s services hub at the Abbotsford Convent and $3.25 million being put aside for initial investment into a much needed Indoor Sports Centre.

However, there is a sting in the tail. The children’s services hub will come at the expense of the closure of the Council-run, and much needed, Keele Street childcare centre in Collingwood. The Socialist Party will work with local families to campaign against this closure.

The Greens have made noises to the local media in opposition to investment in a new Indoor Sports Centre, saying more money should be spent on bike paths and ‘Local Area Traffic Management Schemes’. The Socialist Party supports more bike paths and indeed a free and expanded public transport system – but the Indoor Sports Centre should be the last place to be taking finances from.

What about high executive salaries, expensive consultants, contracts to private and second-rate contractors and departments that seem to have little value for the community such as ‘business support’?

Instead of a fight against the bureaucrats, the Greens find it easier to steal from the Indoor Sports Centre, despite supporting the concept in theory last year when they had the Mayoralty.

The Socialist Party does not support this budget because it is not in the interests of ordinary residents. We support a budget that would move to bring back services like street cleaning into Council-control and defend and extend services such as childcare.

A socialist budget would direct community support to resident’s groups on the public housing estates instead of to bureaucrats in offices. We would aim to keep rate rises at the level of inflation and cut costs by reducing high executive salaries and the use of expensive contractors and consultants.

Instead of slugging ordinary rate payers, a socialist Council would wage a community campaign against the cost-cutting of the State and Federal governments, demanding well funded services for all residents.