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3:14 PM
Are you sure you want to criticise Manningham Council?
Manningham Council is very reluctant to listen to things they do not like. When they hear something they don't like, Manningham council does what they are required to do, i.e. publish the residents submissions/comments but they stop right there and take the issue no further.
Manningham council then responds  to the critical comments but not in the way we would expect.
In this instance, Manningham council did something that would most likely irk and irritate the people who made the unwelcome submissions. Please let me explain.


Let us consider some of these submissions from the June 3, 2014 meeting that are critical of the council.

Submissions page 1.

  • 'Administration costs' (that is, mostly staff wages and salaries) seem to be too high a proportion of expenses to be consistent with good management.

  • $20,000 is being spent [i.e. wasted] promoting the Doncaster rail project which has been rejected by the state government.

  • This resident asks for the salaries and entitlements of each councillor and senior officer to be published to make Manningham council consistent with the practices of private sector statutory annual reports.


Submissions page 3.

This resident questions the increase in spending by Manningham council. They point out that even at a federal level, government expenditure is being reduced however Manningham council is significantly increasing expenditure.

They point out that the increase in council rates is unsustainable.

One resident points out that council expenses should dramatically decrease immediately.

This resident was actually a former councillor and asks why do other levels of government recognize the need to reduce spending but Manningham does not?


Submissions pages 60-62.

This is a most revealing submission. It shows what many of us have suspected for a long time. 

Here we have explained, quite clearly, how Manningham Council has been misleading residents for years regarding the large increases in council rates.

Many residents have compared Manningham council's rate increases with the increase in CPI and asked why do our council rates increase at around twice the CPI.

Manningham council consistently replies along these lines: "that council costs have little to do with consumer items. And that wages and salaries form a large part of councils expenses."

And they leave it precisely there without saying any more. However this explanation really does not explain anything. For example, why should a large wages and salary bill give rise to such large increases in our rates?

A former councillor spells it out for us.

"The main reason for cost increases is the wages and salaries increments applied to the current $44.5 million wages bill under enterprise agreements"


The reason why our rates increase at such an alarming rate is because the salaries and wages bill of the council is increasing at an alarming rate.

This ex-councillor explains to us that the pay increases for council staff are large because of their enterprise bargaining agreement. From what I can find out this enterprise bargaining agreement, it has a sizable built-in annual increase that is not performance based. Council staff get their pay increases for just showing up at work.

This former councillor makes many complaints about the behaviour of Manningham Council. He also points out that the Manningham council is not being entirely honest when it comes to money.


What does Manningham Council have to say about this...

So, getting back to my original point, just how does Manningham council response to these three submissions critical of their actions?

These three submissions are not addressed specifically. But the council does respond to them. To see this you need to read between the lines a bit.

The three critical submissions are calling for a reduction in expenses and better management of ratepayers money. Manningham council does not want to hear this. So how does the council respond?

You will note that Manningham council also receives a submission from a group of ratepayers who ask the council for an additional $10,000 that is over and above what was in the original budget. The submission happens to be for a very good community cause. This community group wants $10,000 from the council to promote heatwave awareness among older people.

Manningham council decided to give this organisation the $10,000 without even looking for reductions in other area of the budget.

There is no mention in the minutes, that I can find, where Manningham Council tried to find savings elsewhere to defray this additional expense. That is what most financially responsible private companies and individuals would do. Additional expenses means you try to find savings elsewhere. That is what people mean when they speak of the careful management of money.

But not so at Manningham council. The council simply adds this expense to an already excessive expenses bill and without even looking for savings elsewhere.


How would the more financially responsible among us see this?...

The question to ask is "How do you think the residents, who want the council to be more restrained in spending, would see this?"

I think it would be natural for these residents see this as an irritation and it would annoy them.

Now the problem for these residents is, off course, that this additional money is for a very worthwhile cause - and the council knows this. They know that if anyone is critical of this spending, they could easily be accused of not being concerned about elderly people whereas the council would be seen to be deeply concerned for the elderly.

The only thing these residents can do is sit back quietly and accept the increase in spending without saying anything - and the council knows this.

This, it appears, is how Manningham Council responds to people who ask for restraint in council spending. In effect they are told to keep quiet. More accurately they are told to 'clear off' and Manningham Council then dares them to be publicly critical of the additional expenditure.


Am I being unfair here? 

If you attend the council meetings, you may be aware of the very real power games and struggles between different groups that comprise our council.

If I am right, then what we are seeing in Manningham Council is a rather arrogant and scornful response to those who are critical of council waste and greed.

As I mentioned before, Manningham council listens to what they want and ignores what they do not like. And if you are critical of them you better watch out...

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