At the July 2 special council meeting of the City of Victor Harbor elected members voted to support a 3.5 per cent rate rise.
The meeting lasted only 21 minutes, due to a motion proposed by councillor Pat Chigwidden to stop debate on the subject. Cr Chigwidden had the support of councillors Nick Hayles, Moira Jenkins, Carol Schofield and Karen Dutton and this stopped the opportunity for each councillor to discuss/debate one of the “most important decisions of the year”.
Councillor Moira Jenkins, along with Cr Bob Marshall had their hands up to talk on the issue when the motion was put.
The Times has been inundated with letters, emails and phone calls on the issue, accusing council of censorship and being muzzled.
Cr Jenkins speaks her personal opinion and not necessarily that of council on why she supported the rate rise and the motion to stop discussion.
"The council held about five workshops and meetings about the budget which were open to the public. During these sessions there were many lengthy discussions and considerable debate among councilors about the impact of rates on our community and the services delivered by council, including what services could be cut, or withdrawn and what further infrastructure and services we needed,” Cr Jenkins said.
“There was also a considerable consultation process after the draft budget was announced. Unfortunately only 13 people attended the community forum that was held to discuss the budget. There were 21 written submissions and I took both the feedback from the community forum and written submissions into account when looking at the draft budget.”
Cr Jenkins said while the City of Victor Harbor had a special budget council meeting to consider its budget for adoption, Alexandrina Council had their normal council meeting with the budget items included in that meeting. This is why Alexandrina Council’s meeting went for four hours. The budget itself was debated for about one hour at Alexandrina council and for about 25 minutes at Victor Harbor.
“During the Budget debate in our chamber the mayor interjected a number of times as one councillor was going over his allocated time in his talk. He would not take the direction of the mayor to stop, which is why Cr Chigwidden called for the 'motion to be put' (this means - stop debate and vote on the motion). Given the tension in the room and my view that the mayor was losing control of the chamber, I supported her motion,” she said.
“If I had the opportunity to speak at the meeting, I would have spoken about two issues: the challenges of setting this budget, and the reasons why the rate rise was above CPI. However, I still would have been supportive of the recommendations presented to us.”
The budget as it was passed sets the average residential rate rise as around $16.75 a quarter or approximately $67 a year.
“I would have also said that, while I support this budget, I am also in support of the Council Rate Capping that is being introduced by the current State Government, as I believe that this will provide fairer, more sustainable fiscal framework for the local government sector as a whole,” Cr Jenkins said.
I support this budget, I am also in support of the Council Rate Capping that is being introduced by the current State Government, as I believe that this will provide fairer, more sustainable fiscal framework for the local government sector as a wholeCity of Victor Harbor councillor Moira Jenkins
“Every council is different, and with Victor Harbor being one of the fastest growing councils in South Australia there is high demand on both services and infrastructure (unlike slow growing metropolitan councils). In the proposed rate capping scheme, councils such as ours, can apply for a variation above the annual rate cap, in order to support vital community services and infrastructure.”
Rate capping means that councils that need to increase their rates above the cap, will need to justify and apply to do so, providing the reasons for their extra rate increases. There will be an independent third party reviewing this request and Cr Jenkins believes this will lead to greater transparency and accountability, and for this reason she supports the proposed rate capping legislation.
“With the new CEO some five months into her position we are part way through an organisational review and an examination of how we can save money in a number of services that the council provides,” she said.
“I am also of the opinion that the council can partner better with private enterprise and other tiers of government to deliver services and facilities in a more cost effective way, and we can make better use of across- region services and opportunities than we have done in the past."