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7:21 AM
An Indifferent Council.

Sometimes Manningham Council stun me with the way they treat the people of Manningham.

Please consider the "Performance Report for the period ending 31 March 2015" (see pages 1474 and onwards in the minutes for 26 May 2015.)

Please look at the Debtor Commentary (section 2.6 on page 1482 )

The figures shown on page 1482 would make most people deeply concerned -- but not Manningham council. If many private organisations saw similar figures for their customers, they would most likely conduct a review of prices they charge their customers.

Manningham Council market themselves as a concerned and compassionate local government. But the way they behave indicates that is simply not the case.

Please consider how the residents of Manningham are having great difficulty when it comes to paying the outrageous rates charged by Manningham council. And consider how Manningham council responds to them.

May I give you the council's own numbers. The following is taken directly from page 1482 of the council minutes for 26 May 2015.

The total amount outstanding in respect of rates and charges is made up of:

Arrears/Overdue

Prior year arrears                                                                       $1.858 million

Interest raised and legal costs                                                    $0.158 million

First installment (due 30 Sept 2014)                                           $0.537 million

Second installment (due 30 Nov 2014)                                       $0.708 million

Third installment (due 28 Feb 2015)                                           $1.157 million

Current Debtors

Forth installment (due 31 May 2015)                                         $16.753 million

Direct Debit monthly installments                                                 $3.345 million

Total Rates and Charges Outstanding                                  $24.516 million

Less Fire Service Property Levy                                                   $2.161 million

Less Credit balances                                                                    $0.117 million

Total Rates and Charges Outstanding (excluding FSPL)    $22.238 million

A penalty interest rate of 10.5% is applied to outstanding rates and charges and the penalty interest rate being set by the State Government independently of council.

 

Let us take a closer look at the above figures.

 

One in every 14 ratepayers.

The council collects approximately $16.753 million in rates at each of the four installment dates mentioned. There is $1.157 million outstanding from the last installment that was due in February 2015. That represents somewhere around 6.9% of ratepayers who could not pay their rates when they fell due then. This is around one in every 14 ratepayers - which is an alarming number.

 

One in every 24 ratepayers.

There is still 4.2% unpaid from the installment prior to that in November 2014. That represents around one in every 24 ratepayers in Manningham who have rates outstanding for over 5 months.

 

One in every 31 ratepayers.

Before that, from the installment due in September 2014, 3.2% of ratepayers still have rate payments outstanding. That is around one in every 31 ratepayers.

 

One in every 43 ratepayers.

Now lets consider people who have rate payments outstanding from the prior financial year. The rates and charges for 2013/2014 were $82.491 million (page 85 Annual Report 2013-2014). From that amount 2.3% remained unpaid 12 months later. That is around one in every 43 ratepayers.

 

These are alarming numbers. They clearly indicate that many people and families in Manningham are having great difficulty paying the council's outrageous and exorbitant rate bills when they fall due.

 

So what does the council do?

Look at the line 'Interest raised and legal costs'.

Manningham council markets itself as a concerned and compassionate local government that serves the ratepayers. But that is just what they say.

When you look at what they do, you see a very different picture. First Manningham Council increases annual rate charges by outrageous amounts. From 4.5% up to 8% per year and sometimes even more.

And as I have shown in other articles on this web site, council rate increases are far above the increase in average wages and the increase in the cost of constructing roads and buildings.

And when ratepayers are in difficulty paying the outrageous council rates, our council adds exorbitant interest to their bills and takes them to court if they cannot pay.

These are the true colours of Manningham Council. It is all about money.

 

Excessive Interest Charges.

When Manningham residents cannot pay the outrageous rates changed by the council, Manningham council says it adds 10.5% interest on loans outstanding from 2013/2014.

But things have have gotten worse for us since 2013/2014. If you look at your valuation and rates notice from 2014/2015 you will find this statement in red at the bottom.

Interest will be charged on any installment not paid by the due date. Interest will be charged on overdue installments at 11.5% p.a. from the instalment date until the date of payment.

It appears our council is applying even greater penalty interest rates this year. On the prior years rates notice, this same red text said the penalty interest rate was 10.5%. This year it is 11.5%. The council is increasing charges where ever they can.

Again, for Manningham council it is all about money.

So lets consider this penalty interest rate.

For 2013/2014 council rates increased by 5.6%. However, if you were not able to pay then 10.5% interest was added. So you face with an overall increase of 16.1% above the year before if you could not pay your rates bills.

For 2014/2015 the rates increased by 4.5%. If you were not able to pay then 11.5% interest will be added. So you face an overall increase of 16%.

Manningham council knows that many ratepayers are in financial hardship. They sometimes mention this in Manningham council documents and sometimes in the Manningham Leader. Also from their own figures, they can see many are in great difficulty paying their rates.

It appears Manningham Council is simply feigns concern. They increase penalty interest charges whenever they can. They do little to investigate, alleviate or address the problem. And when you look at rate relief they do provide, it has extremely restrictive conditions attached to it and does little, if anything, to address the massive annual increase in rates. What you get from Manningham council is carefully crafted words and feigned concern.

I said before that Manningham council markets itself as concerned and compassionate government serving the ratepayers. That is simply not the case.

 

There are things the council can do – but won't.

First, why charge the penalty interest rate set by the state government? Even if a 10.5% or 11.5% penalty interest rate is prescribed by law, Manningham council could apply to the state government for a reduced interest rate, just as they do when they want the State government to alter other aspects of legislation governing local government.

Most private organisations who have an on gong dependency upon their customers, would want to find out what is happening among and would most likely adjust their prices and policies accordingly. Can the cost to their customers be reduced? Can the burden be lightened? But not Manningham council. Instead, Manningham council does everything it can to justify their outrageous annual rate increases and also their penalty interest rates.

 

Hiding behind the State Government.

State law permits Manningham council to demand exorbitant annual increases in council rates each year and outrageous penalty interest when rates are not paid.

And that is good enough justification for Manningham council to charge the exorbitant rates and apply these exorbitant penalty interest charges.

They say they are simply obeying the law and there is nothing they can do about it.

But remember how, at the Nuremburg trials, criminals on trial sought to justify their behaviour by saying they were just obeying the law. Just as that excuse was not acceptable decades ago, neither is is acceptable now.

 

Manningham Council's penalty interest rates.

If residents cannot afford to pay their council rates, Manningham effectively increases their rates bill to 16% by adding penalty interest charges.

16% interest is in the same league as the credit card interest charged by banks of some years back. Some years ago, unpaid amounts on credit cards would attract around 19% interest or higher. To many in the public this was unjustified and seen as simply price gouging by the banks.

In recent years the banks have changed their outrageous interest charges on credit cards. My credit card interest rate is now 13.5%.

While 13.5% is less than 19%, is still outrageous considering the fact that the western central banks are currently creating new money and lending that new money to banks at around zero percent interest and that the money the banks use to pay for what I buy on my credit card is created out of thin air at zero cost by the western central banks. (Yes, that is how it works. If you doubt this, please do some reading on the system of western central banking.)

Even in the face of this ongoing outrageous and over-the-top greed by the nation's banks who charge 13.5% on credit cards, Manningham council demands an even higher overall percentage (i.e. rate increase and penalty interest) when you cannot pay your rates bill.

 

Why is Manningham council so indifferent to the hardship they cause?

It is quite simple.

As an ex-councillor has said in the past and as I have said in the past, a very large amount of our annual rate rises go directly into the pockets of the council staff as remuneration increases in one form or another.

If you look at ABS statistics, salaries in the private sector increase annually at approximately 2%. Public sector pay increases on average at around 3.1% (For Nov 2013 to Nov 2014).

The remuneration packages of council staff increase at around 3.2% to 3.4% each year depending on which council document you look at. Our council rates increase at around 5% each year.

Council staff are paid, in one form or another, around 52% of the money from rates and waste charges collected by the council. (They are paid around 45% of the council's income if you take rates as well as government grants into account. And 39% if you also take fees, fines, donations, contributions, interest and sale of equipment into account.) See 2015/2016 Annual Budget. Page 68.

Also council pay is not performance based, and is it not effected by economic slowdowns as our pay rates are. Increases happen automatically each year as part of the council's enterprise bargaining agreement regardless of what happens elsewhere. And all council workers need to do to get their annual pay increase is show up to work.

It is clear, to me at least, that council staff are lining their pockets at our expense and are indifferent to the suffering, stress, problems, hardships and family tensions they cause in the community.

Again and again, when you look at their actions and the numbers, Manningham council gives all indications that they are serving only themselves and care very little about anyone that gets hurt by what they do.

 

Is this a once off?

Government, as you may know, are very good when it comes to excuses. It is possible to list the most common ones they use.

"It was the actions of one individual".

"It was an error of judgement"

"It was an isolated incident".

All of them are either outright lies or at best half truths worded in a way to protect the government's own interests.

So what excuse might we expect this time?

How about 'It is an isolated incident'?

Well, lets take a look at that excuse. Let's take a look at the debtors figures as they stood at some points in the past. The figures have been taken from various council documents. The figures given are a percentage of total debtors to total rates payable.

 

 

2011

Annual Report 2011/2012 Pages 130, 138.

2012

Annual Report 2012/2013.

Pages 103, 122.

2013.

Annual Report 2013/2014.

Pages 94, 101.

2014.

Annual Report 2013/2014.

Pages 94, 101.

April 2015

Performance Report for March 2015 Pages 2, 5.

Total Debtors

$1.893m

$2.380m

$2.879m

$3.246m

$4.418m

Rates & Charges

$68.868m

$73.102m

$79.086m

$83.326m

$87.281m

% Debtors to Rates

2.70%

3.26%

3.64%

3.89%

5.06%

No. It is not an 'isolated incident'.

It is part of a growing trend. Please see the numbers in red in the table above. Manningham council has sat back and watched the plight of Manningham residents and have seen full well that residents are having growing difficulty paying the council's outrageous rate bills. They have feigned concern in the Manningham Leader and their internal documents but have increased rates, charges, penalty interest at every opportunity. Simply put, they are complete frauds in this regard.

Also please consider the increase in rates in terms of dollars. Only 4 years ago, Manningham council collected $68.868 million in rates. Now in 2015 they plan to collect $87.281 million.

That is the power of compound interest. Manningham council increases rates by 5%, 8% or more each year and before you know it, the annual increase becomes bigger and bigger, in dollar terms, until it eventually becomes unmanageable for residents.

Consider this. For most of us, our salaries do not increase by 5% or more per year. For those in the private sector the ABS figures show that on average our annual pay increases at around 2%. The annual dollar increase in council rates will inevitably get larger and larger. There will come a point where a person's  income is simply not able to keep pace given their other living expenses. A growing number of Manningham residents have already arrived at that point. And Manningham council gives every indication that it could not care less.

 

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