Groups grizzling about council

March 15, 2018

Progressive? Roads, reduced rates and rubbish — a medieavel approach.

Here verbatim inter alia are a couple of interesting introductory claims, taken from an incorporated body’s submission to a Local Government Electoral Review several years ago, under the sub-heading rhetorically asking, ‘What’s Wrong with Local Councils?’

Their answer, in part?

‘‘A lot! Councils have, in general, lost the trust of their customers. As an institution they are arrogant to the point of being bullies and may be seen to be a self-serving group interested only in the advancement of the elected councillors and council staff — they spend indecent amounts entertaining themselves and their friends and associates.’’

Who are these highly irritated people, you ask?

They call themselves Ratepayers Victoria Inc., RVI for short, and they’ve been beavering away for some years now, carping and complaining, seemingly mainly because they don’t like paying rates.

Pretty much they appear to adhere to the mediaeval council concept of ‘roads, reduced rates and rubbish’.

Sound to you like a progressive and objective group — something Greater Shepparton needs to inject creative advanced development?

‘‘We want to work with councils. We’re not the big, bad wolf,’’ RVI’s vice-president Frank Sullivan said.

‘‘The whole idea behind the group was to ensure transparency on how councils were spending ratepayer dollars.’’

Populist stuff? You bet.

So this Melbourne-based mob is calling a meeting here in Shepparton later this month to ‘‘... assist us to get the ratepayer group up and running in Shepparton’’.

Wow, exclaims this long-serving municipal warhorse, having seen similar groups of mainly dissident municipal moaners come and go before (mostly go).

More importantly, should our councillors be tremblingly nauseous at the prospect of having a branch of this self-proclaimed council constabulary, whining and grumbling as they nitpick their way through democratically-elected municipal decision-making?

Definitely not. Courteously acknowledge their representations and afford them no more and no less a hearing than that always extended to other residents having a problem.

Have we had these groups before?

Of course — remember the mainly grumbling gaggle of municipal malcontents who dubbed themselves the Greater Shepparton Citizens Action Group whose purpose, from its website, included, ‘‘To provide a citizens (sic) forum for the discusion (sic) and where necessary, the development of an independent view of community needs and priorities accross (sic) the Greater Shepparton municipal area’’.

The word ‘‘action’’ seemed superfluous as did the group itself — now gone and almost forgotten.

The gap was later filled by a group initially called the Greater Shepparton Better Local Government Association then later just the Better Local Government Association.

Affectionately known as the Grumpy Old Men, they haven’t been heard of lately — due though to warm up for the council elections in 2020.

That raises the question of how the BLGA sees the possible emergence of a rival RVI grizzle group. Amalgamation of the factions? Dual citizenship? Who knows?

●With the announcements of intention to nominate for the District of Shepparton for the November Victorian Parliament State Elections, maybe it’s time for a little bit of history looking at our past lower house representation.

From 1945-1955 the late Hon. John McDonald (Country Party) served us; the seat then being abolished and re-established again 12 years later, and held by Mr McDonald, 1967-1975.

Peter Ross-Edwards followed in 1967 (first as Country Party, then National Country Party, then National Party), retiring 24 years later.

Don Kilgour (National) succeeded Ross-Edwards (1991-2002) followed by Jeanette Powell from the same party 2002-2014.

Suzanna Sheed (2014), an independent, has then held the seat until the present time.

So for 71 years we’ve had solely conservative National or Country Party representation up to four years ago when we changed to an independent — no Labor, no Liberal lower house member ever in all that time.

Neither have we had much representation in the actual ruling government Cabinets except for John McDonald (Premier in the early 1950s) and Jeanette Powell (2010-2012).

Basically, here in the District of Shepparton, on a two-party preference divide, we’re about three-quarters conservative and one-quarter left of centre — pretty well always have been and with small variations, for better or for worse, very likely to stay that way for years to come.

As the year progresses and candidates and campaigns unfold we can expect some robust social discussion. That’s for sure.

Shepparton’s John Gray has vast experience in local government, urban water reform and natural resource management.

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