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Sunday, 03.18.2018
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12:52 PM
Deeply Unpopular Practices of Manningham Council

At last, Manningham Council is giving money back to the residents.

Or are they?

It is good to hear that the council will no longer insist residents contribute towards the cost of building roads that run past their properties. Roads, which by the way,  are used far more by the general public than they are by the residents who live along them.

For as long as I can remember this has been a deeply unpopular practice of local councils. Even as far back as the early 1960's when the road in front of my grandmother's home in Mooroolbark was built. The cost to residents was so high then, that one elderly woman, unable to pay the money demanded by the council, took her own life as a way out of her problem.

Residents will still need to pay for vehicle crossings - which is probably all they should have been asked to pay for from the beginning.

"The report also notes that vehicle crossings solely benefit the property served by this infrastructure and, as such, property owners should continue to be required to fund their construction." (Minutes 12 Dec 2017. p138 11.1)

So why has this come about? Is the council finally being responsible with other people's money? Have they found ways to reduce their inflated costs so they can do more with less?

Not really.

The council gives three reasons.

"Although Council has the power under the Local Government Act 1989 to declare special rates or charges schemes, and to recover costs off those properties deemed to benefit from the schemes, the amount of contributions sought through special charges as a percentage of the total budget for road, footpath and drainage improvements is very low. Special rates or charges schemes are unpopular and the practical application of schemes can be more problematic, with an underlying risk that a special charge scheme costs more than the financial benefit to Council where a scheme is challenged in VCAT." (p139 2.1).

So we can see the reasons are:

  • The council's special charge schemes only contribute a small amount to the total cost of the roads.
  • The schemes are deeply unpopular with the residents.
  • If residents take the council to VCAT, the cost of the court case outweighs the money received from the special charge scheme.

So we can see this is not really due to newly found money management skills.

Rather it is a calculated decision which weights up the costs, benefits and potential problems of the scheme. 

And note that Manningham Council will not to eliminate the practice entirely, as we can see here:

"Consequently, in future, it is proposed that capital improvement works be generally funded by Council, except in exceptional circumstances, subject to meeting several prerequisites, including securing CEO approval to initiate a special charge scheme." (p138 11.1)

There might be a lesson in this for us. And that is to not just accept what the council does with our money but to let the council know that we don't like the irresponsible ways in which these wastrells spend our money. Also it is worth taking the council to VCAT if you think you have a legitimate case against them.

This brings to mind other actions of Manningham Council that should also be just as deeply unpopular. But unfortunately because the general population is not directly effected by them, the council often receives very little criticism.

Let me give you one example.


Open Space Contribution Rates.

Did you know that when someone subdivides property and sells the smaller land parcels, usually they need to give a certain percentage of the land to the council. That is, give it free of charge so the council can provide parks and recreation facilities for the people who will live there.

Generally, in the past, between 5% to 8% of the land is given by the owner free of charge to the council.

Most would say that this seems reasonable. This practice does provide useful parkland and open space for the residents. 

But we need to note that this land has really been given to the residents and the council is supposed to manage it properly. In principle it is our land not council land.

In the past, Manningham council has not been that responsible with this land. Some years back the council sold off numerous smaller blocks of land that they regarded as surplus. They tried to sell of a large parcel of land near where I live and would have done so if there was not an outcry from the people in the street against what they were doing. They ended up changing their policy just enough to quieten us. But we get the sense that they still intend to sell it and are just waiting for the right time to try again.

Now regarding the sale of that surplus park land. The council claims that they then used the money to build facilities at Ruffey Lake Park. If this is true then this also is an example of irresponsible council waste. They must have received a few million dollars for the sale of the surplus park land. Each block at the time would have fetched around $250,000 each. 

And what did we get at Ruffey Lake Park? Some children's play equipment, barbeque equipment and some metal covered sheds. This is not much to show for all those millions of dollars. I cannot help but think that either the council were again just being  irresponsible wastrells with our money or they redirected some of our money to meet other council expenses with Ruffey Lake that were not directly related to the recreational side of the park.


The massively generous gift of Mirvac to the residents of Manningham.

But getting back to the issue of the Open Space Contribution Rates.

Did you know that when the Eastern Golf Course was subdivided, Mirvac the developers, agreed to give 20% of the land to the council for use as recreational parkland? That was a massive amount of land to give free of charge to the council. It is well over the usual 5% to 8% the council requests from other subdivisions. It was one fifth of the total land - just given to the council for free.

You may think that was good and possibly it was. It was a massively generous gift agreed between Mirvac and Manningham Council. 

So what did the council do next? This is where Manningham shows it's true nature, in particular their outrageous and rapacious greed.


Manningham Council comes after even more.

The council then made another demand to make upon Mirvac.

Do you know that the council usually discounts or reduces the rates to organisations that provide some service to the community. This is possibly done in the belief that the organisation is providing a service to the residents  that otherwise the council should possibly provide. (See Cultural and Recreational Lands Act 1963 4(1).)

This happened with the Eastern Golf Course. Manningham Council deemed that they provided a service to the community and so they received a discounted rate bill each year.

Now when such organisations sell their land, problems arise for the buyer. In particular the council will insist that the next buyer of the land pay back to the council all the rate money the council lost in the previous 10 years when they reduced the previous organisations rates. (See Cultural and Recreational Lands Act 1963 4(5)ii. )

That's right! The council will come after the new owner and insist they make up their shortfall.

Can you believe that?

First of all, the council recognized that the previous owners provided a service to the community. The service was delivered and the community got to enjoy it. The council saved money because they did not have to provide such facilities. 

And after all this, the council behaves like spoiled, greedy children and demand the new owner make up what they gave away.

So the council benefits twice. First they save money because they did not have to provide a similar service, then they get all that money back again. It is completely unfair and even a type of criminal theft.


When is a criminal act not a criminal act?

But oh no, it is not really a criminal act.

Because of local government collusion with the state government, this criminal act of greed is 'just and perfectly all right'. Why? Because a law has been passed making this criminal act of theft completely lawful.

I think both the state government and local councils know that what they are doing is simply unjust and outrageous. I think this because of the careful way in which they named this piece of legislation. They called it the "Cultural and Recreational Lands Act 1963".  See here

Reading this title you would think it has something to do with the management of cultural land and parkland. But it is nothing of the sort.

It should really have been called something like "Cultural and Recreational Land Rates Concessions and Clawback Act 1963" because that is what is really going on. Clawback is the proper term for what is being done. You may have heard of 'clawback' in relation to over-paid social security payments by the Federal Government when the Federal Government wants their money back.

But the state government would never use the word 'clawback' in the title of this legislation. That would give the game way. Instead they conceal their outrageous greed behind an innocent sounding name.

How would you respond to the council's greed if you were Mirvac?  

You see, Manningham Council is filled with people who only look at the law. To them, if the law permits them to do something then it is the right and good thing to do. They don't seem to have any other moral compass to assess their actions. This is a common sickness that runs in many government circles. They seem to think that 'all we have is the law' and there is no sense that some laws might be unjust or unfair and illegitimate.

Private organisations may have behaved differently. They might have thought that 20% of land is a big gift already and they would be satisfied with that. 

Possibly private organisations may also want to prevent the working relationship from being poisoned, at least until the project is finished.

But not Manningham Council. Their avarice knows no bounds. They approached Mirvac for what they regarded as their rights under the law, even while the project was underway and the whole thing ended up in court. 

The council has no idea how to function in the real world. Their greed is simply indecent.

I know that this does not effect ordinary residents directly. But we can see clearly the people who run Manningham Council, what their priorities are, what they do and how they behave. And I think we should respond with the same dislike and abhorrence as we do to their charges upon residents to build public roads.

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