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Monday, 12.18.2017
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Congratulations Warrandyte Businesses

Congratulations are due to all businesses at Warrandyte.

You have successfully avoided a completely unnecessary council tax.

Yes, the Special Charge Scheme promoted my Manningham City Council is a tax.

Manningham Council's intentions with their Special Charge Schemes were made quite clear in the council documents for Templestowe Village Special Charge Scheme. In those documents the council said that if the Templestowe special charge scheme did not go ahead, there would be additional demands upon council funds to maintain the shopping area. What these documents say is that not all money collected from businesses was going to be spent on promotional and marketing activities at Templestowe Village. Only a part was. The balance of the money was going to be spent maintaining items that the council was otherwise required to maintain.

So you see that part of these Special Charge Schemes are really a tax. The council documents for the proposed special charge at Templestowe Village said as much. However all such candid statements were carefully expunged from the documents for the Special Charge Scheme at Warrandyte. The reason was that the council had an open revolt on their hands at Templestowe Village when the businesses found out what was really going on. Clearly the council did not want a similar revolt at Warrandyte.

Now that Warrandyte businesses have rejected the council's special charge scheme we see Maningham Council employ a second weapon at their disposal. This is nothing more than FUD or Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

If you read the council minutes for 27 June 2017, pages 268 to 272, you get the impression that the council thinks the Warrandyte businesses have made a bad choice. The council says business have cut themselves off from using the 'State wide and national marketing schemes' the council subscribes to. (page 270 point 3.5).

I think the council is trying to make traders feel guilty and foolish for their decision. The truth is that the promotional schemes provided to Templestowe Village were mostly a disaster. For instance, the council had a web site built that was going to promote the Templestowe Village Shopping center. However it turned out to be such a failure that businesses questioned why it was ever done. Why do we think the council could deliver results for Warrandyte when clearly they could not at Templestowe Village?

The 'promotional activities' that Manningham Council proposes to increase business turnover are generally not successful and rarely deliver results. Warrandyte business will most likely have better success with their money if they managed their own marketing themselves.

 

If you read the council documents for these Special Charge Schemes carefully you will come to see that there are two reasons why Manningham Council proposes them.

First, as I said before, the council uses part of the money they receive to pay for infrastructure they otherwise would have to pay for out of rate and state government revenue streams. These schemes are actually a way for the council to obtain some additional money over and above their income from rates, etc. to fund their work.

Second, the council is able to influence the shopping centers to become venues that further their own agendas. I have gone into detail about this in other articles on this website. The council's agenda is not necessarily aligned with increased revenue for the businesses at the shopping centers.

What the council wants to do is turn shopping centers into 'vibrant' places that attract people. This may mean more business opportunity for traders but there is a catch. Again, I have gone into detail about this in other articles on this website but I will summarize the main issues here.

Basically the council plans to dramatically increase Manningham's population and so the council needs to provide places there the new members of the population can gather, entertain themselves, shop, and so on. You see, the council's plans for Manningham are quite dramatic. We can start to see just what the council has in mind if we look at the development at Doncaster Hill (i.e. Westfield shopping center). Now imagine similar high rise residential developments along Doncaster Road, Tram Road, parts of Blackburn Road and so on.

All these new people need to have something to do and someplace to go for entertainment. And this is where shopping centers or 'Activity Centers', as the council calls them, come in.

The council minutes even suggest just this. This is also reasonably clear if you read the minutes for the Special Charge Scheme they successfully renewed at Tunstall Square. But for now, please see Section 4, page 270 of the minutes for 27 June 2017.

"Our district villages and activity centers are vibrant places to meet and provide support to local businesses and traders."

"Promotion of distinct villages and activity centers are valued and cultivated and we (the council) aim to support businesses and traders to build a resilient local community"

"Under the theme of everything we need is local".

It may appear that the council is primarily interested in promoting businesses. But just a minute. On second reading, it becomes apparent that the council really wants to provide support infrastructure for the increased population they are planning for. This is the council's agenda. It just so happens that one by-product of this increase in population may be more trade for the businesses at the shopping centers.

But, as I said, there is a catch. The council is currently taking money from businesses. That is, businesses are paying money for promotional activities to increase their turnover now, or in the current or next quarter.

The increase in population has not occurred yet. In fact, it wont be here for years to come, possibly even a decade. The businesses are expecting increased revenue now, not in ten years time. So the council fudges. They support activities that appear to be little more than a delaying tactic. Poorly executed websites, street entertainment, decorations, etc. In the mean time, they get to use part of the businesses money for their own purposes and to promote their own goals.

All the while the promotional activities supported by the council rarely produce the results expected and are a source of much concern and disappointment for the businesses - if the Templestowe Village experience is anything to go by.

So it appears that again, Manningham Council is again taking care of their own interests and using other people's money to do so. And the businesses are usually left disappointed and frustrated.

There will be a minority of businesses, that derive benefit from what the council does. Also there are a few businesses that receive financial support from the council and the council has found that they can rely upon their support for their programs.

However I think it is fair to say that the majority of businesses do not benefit from the council's Special Charge Scheme. They are seen as a waste of hard earned funds and the businesses think they can use this money to promote their business much better themselves. However, until there was a concerted effort to throw off this unnecessary council tax, the council is able to continue the scheme and deflect criticism if and when necessary. However, when businesses at Warrandyte united and were very clear in their message, they send the tricky council packing.

So, once again, congratulations Warrandyte Businesses.

You have made a sound business decision. I hope that you are able to spend the money you save wisely promoting your own businesses.

 

One final point. See Section 6, page 271 of the minutes for 27 June 2017.

The council says that when they cease the Special Charge Schemes, they realize cost savings. They do not need to pay the legal costs associated with the schemes and there are savings from other administrative costs.

I am sure that if the council really put their mind to cost savings and efficiency gains, then they would easily be able to save money to fund their current work program without having to resort to such deceptive schemes as the Special Charge Schemes for shopping centers.

Clearly the council squanders money in numerous ways. Money that could be saved through better management.

a) If you get an opportunity to look into the council staff work areas, you see numerous people wasting time with coffee breaks, talking about who knows what. I also found out myself that when someone comes from the work areas to talk to you at the counter they behave as if they have just come from a party.

b) The council squanders money on infrastructure. They spend $250,000 to build a public toilet. With that money I could build a modern 30 square home. But with the council we get a concrete box with plumbing and toilets. There is something seriously wrong here.

c) The council squanders resources on policy documents. Yes they are required by law, but the days and day they take to write and the human resources used in the process are astounding. In the private sector, in the businesses I have worked in, such policy documents were prepared quite efficiently by senior management. One manager would write it, the others review and comment on it then the final version was approved. When you compare the two processes you are amazed at the council waste and inefficiency. The council has whole committees that meet for weeks dedicated to preparing just one document.

Manningham Council simply does not see the waste. Most likely this is because the vast majority of them are career government bureaucrats and they simply know no better. Such waste and nonsense have been part of their job from the beginning.

However, on the other hand I find it laughable that they do make the claim that they should receive similar pay to executives in similar sized private organisation.

If they think this then we should be able to expect similar levels of competence and efficiency. But the cost savings and efficiency gains realized by management at Manningham Council are also simply laughable. In fact you get the impression that they hold such objectives in contempt. A few years back, Manningham Council say they achieved a cost saving of $500,000 in one year, due to efficiency gains. That is simply a ridiculous amount given their budget and current levels of waste.

Even the state government recognizes the waste and inefficiency at the local government level and is continually pushing for ways to address it. But local government stubbornly resists and refuses to co-operate. If the council put their mind to cost saving and efficiency gains, none of this Special Charge Scheme trickery would be necessary.

 

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