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Voice & Action G.P.S.Inc

Voice & Action G.P.S.Inc. (V&A) the ratepayer association for the Golden Plains Shire (GPS) have with other dissatisfied residents  been able to finally achieve a refocus to Council’s thinking. Our group along with the Batesford ratepayer association (BAGPRRA) have been leading the fight to bring change in Council attitude and responses to concerns that we all have.

It was our public meetings that brought local MP’s on board and we are certain contributed to the Council activating a community satisfaction survey. 820 ratepayers responded to that survey and 99% strongly agreed or agreed that the community must be involved in council decisions. 29 ratepayers across the shire were invited to attend 3 workshops at Smythesdale, Rokewood and Bannockburn. Both ratepayer groups had a seat at these workshops and l must say the talent we have out there is encouraging to see. These meetings were extremely respectful and productive with a draft strategy to be produced. This will be provided to us and the community for review. This is a major step forward and only came about due to pressure from our ratepayer groups and community members.

The Council has released the draft budget and V&A has carried out an extensive review of the paper. We shall be submitting our results to Council this month. We are particularly unhappy this year with not being able to have more input into the meetings that produced this budget. We were given the impression this would occur from Mayor Des Phelan, after the Special Council Meeting 2015. V&A made submissions to Council at the Special Meeting re last year’s budget.  Regrettably this resulted in NO changes to that budget with the excuse that there was no time to have amendments done. As in previous years it has been accepted unchanged - year after year.  

This year we shall be in early and if the same result occurs we can only say that the whole process of releasing the draft budget is a farce!

We do take credit for Council, this year adopting our proposal regarding the car fleet. They are no longer replaced yearly or at 40K km and will now be smaller, cheaper models and white in colour.  However V&A are still not happy with other aspects of the fleet which we will continue to campaign on.

Our efforts to restrict the accepting of grants also seem to have been adopted but not to the degree we feel is acceptable. All grants come with co payments by us and we are left maintaining the facility afterwards. 

V&A have argued strongly on the level of staffing at our Council. The associated costs here have been rising faster than any other item in our budget.  This has brought about another win for V&A with our continued lobbying. This year GPS have committed to ‘no further staff increases’ in the budget. This is 3 staff members less than projected. 

The Council will argue that these changes are due to the introduction of capping rates at 2.5%, which is still above inflation rate of 1.3%.

This year is a revaluation year and we expect that the actual rise for a majority of ratepayers (75%) will in fact be in excess of 4%.

This year is for Council, an election year. Elections will be held in October. We have candidates that will stand for election to Council, from both ratepayer groups.  We trust you will get behind their standing and that if elected they can implement the changes needed to Council to achieve one that is affordable and open.

David Evans
President  Voice & Action G.P.S.Inc.