Should Councils fund Pensioner Concessions

Reading the “Conversations” lead article about Pensioner Concessions in this weeks Eastern Courier by Deputy Editor Chris Day has prompted three thoughts for me.

The first of these thoughts was remembering a statement by world renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar about the recession of from memory the 70’s. Zig was commenting on the media’s promotion that we (the world) were in recession. In his own inimitable way he joked you have to believe everything the press says….let’s face it they (the press) have accurately predicted 23 of the last 2 recessions. He went on to say that eventually they will get it right.

The next thought I had was I joined Unley Council so I could be part of the solution rather than the problem, to be in a position where I can influence the outcome.

Do we get it right. maybe, maybe not. When we do we are surely part of the solution. When we don’t we are clearly part of the problem. Either way we at least we are trying to be part of the solution and I would hope we get it right more often than not.

I find that the press focuses on when we get it wrong, even anticipating us getting it wrong (as in the current article). They rarely offer solutions and simply imply we cant get it right. In my opinion this approach means they are part of the problem.

The third thought is that the criticism of Council Rate increases has started early this year. Even before we (Councils) have a chance to start looking at our budgets they have determined what we will do and that it is wrong.

Sitting behind the editors chair and simply casting aspersions on each section of government without offering solutions I respectfully suggest makes Chris part of the problem.

He has commented on the role of both the Federal & State Governments in that the Feds have funded pensioner concessions on Council rates for a long time and the State last year. As councils are faced with whether of not they can or cant pick up the tag of Pensioner Concessions he chooses whilst acknowledging the Federal & State roles to focus on Councils above the other two tears of Government.

He does this with claims we are always crying poor and we lack (as a collective body) the discipline to trim our own spending.

So if I read his article correctly he believes we should be cutting rates and covering the pensioner discounts as well.

You can read hos article on page 14 at this link to the Eastern Courier current edition.

Here is my initial consideration of Unley’s situation before our staff present the actual numbers.

We would have to find in excess of $ 500,000 if we were to subsidize Pensioner Concessions. With a budget of around $ 35 million this means funding the concessions would require an increase of around 1 1/2 %. This by itself is in excess of the CPI. If past practice is anything to go by, increasing our rates this much is likely to be criticized by the press in general and therefore this writer.

For rate payers who see similarly  I question you….. would you be prepared to pay an extra $ 20.00 per annum on your rates to subsidize the pensioners. I believe we have 25,000 rate payers and if this is the case that is how much each of us would have to pay to look after those most in need.

Needless to say Unley Council has yet to consider this challenge and I will wait with interest to see how my colleagues feel. Needless to say I also anticipate the negative press whatever we do.

Hopefully they will move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.





Development Approvals Down

New Developments Down 10 % the Eastern Courier is telling us in the eastern suburbs. Whilst the report focused on the Norwood, Payneham & St Peters Council it did reference what has occurred in Unley.

The report indeed incorrectly claims that Unley Council development applications are down from 918 in 2102 to 614 in 2013. If true that is a whopping reduction of some 30%
To put the record straight. The annual Development assessment panel report was provided to Council back in October last year and the stats shown therein show approvals down from 958 in 2011-12 to 840 in 2012-13. A significant drop but nowhere near of the order suggested in the Courier. It was more in keeping the the headline for the storey.
Of significance to me, as a member of the Panel, is that the applications before the Panel reduced from 164 (17% of all applications) to 108 (13%). This came about because of changes to criteria Council made to bring back us back in line with similar sized councils when we found we were spending more ratepayers funds than these councils.
Backing up the decision to do this and take pressure off future rate rises the report indicates that 89% and 88% respectively of approvals required by the panel, the panel concurred with the officers recommendation.
It also decried, as I reported last year in this blog site, that only 14 applicants felt a need to lodge an appeal with the ERD Court, making a mockery (in our case anyway) of the Minister for Planning suggesting that approvals should be taken away from Councils and indeed elected members because of bias.

For more information check the posts around September through November.