Yarra Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night to put out a draft budget for public consideration. Socialist Party Councillor Stephen Jolly was the sole voice of opposition to the 3 Greens and 3 Labor Councillors present. Both the Independent Councillors were absent.
The budget proposes a 4.5% rate rise. For the last seven years (since the Greens got a strong position on Yarra Council), rates have been increased by the rate of inflation plus 2%. Only the Socialist Party has opposed this policy.
The Socialist Party went to the polls last November opposing rate rises which eat into the living standards of ordinary residents. In the lead up to the budget Labor talked briefly about a rate rise equal to inflation but at the last minute they backed the Greens proposal for the 4.5% rise.
The Reserve Bank states that inflation was 2.5% in the year to March 2009. Latest figures suggest that inflation has dropped to 2.1% in the year to April 2009. Therefore the 4.5% rate rise proposal of the Greens and Labor is far worse than the old Council’s position of inflation plus 2%! It is clear that these parties see no need to give residents some relief as the recession starts to bite.
Just before the vote on the rate rise the same Green and Labor Councillors voted not to increase the pensioner rebate of $100 a year. With inflation at 2.1% or more, this means a cut to this already low rebate for Yarra’s pensioners.
The opening statement of the report about the pensioner rebate gave a hint at how the Green/Labor majority treat residents. It stated: “This report responds to the Council resolution of 21 April 2009 – ‘that Council receive a report outlining the financial implications of advising those eligible for pensioner rebates of their rights to have these deferred until their property is sold’.” That is to say, “if we keep pensioners in ignorance, what will we save?”!
The budget also had some other hidden and open cuts. The generalised youth worker is to have their funding stopped, despite young people and local agencies saying this position is desperately needed. The much-awaited redevelopment of the Ramsden Street Pavilion has been pushed back for another year, while the paving of Yarra’s last unpaved street, Perry Street in Alphington, has been pushed back until 2015!
When the Greens and Labor take from the community, they do so at over inflation rates. For example parking meter charges will go up 12.5%, outside school hours care will rise by 10% and long day care will rise by at least 6.6%. But when the Greens and Labor hand back to the community they do so at much less than inflation rates. For example the pensioner rebate is a cut in real terms and the Annual Grants Programme rises by a mere 1.04%.
The only section of the community who get well over inflation rises is the Councillors themselves! Last month the Greens and Labor voted for a 25% rise in their allowances. Again the Socialist Party was the only voice of opposition.
Despite Yarra Council having a Green Mayor and a Finance Committee which is chaired by Labor, this budget is neo-liberal to the core. As far as the Greens and Labor are concerned it should be ordinary residents who pay the price for the economic crisis.
The Socialist Party will oppose this budget when it comes to the final vote. We will also campaign with local residents and community groups to fight against cuts being implemented and for decent services and facilities in Yarra.
By Socialist Party reporters