Council has released its draft budget and Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) for the next ten years. We can only marvel at the audacity that goes into these documents whilst simultaneously wondering how much credence should be given to any of the figures produced year to year. We acknowledge up front that budgets can and do change; that unforseen circumstances (ie COVID) play a role. However, when prognostications are out by 100% then questions need to be asked and those responsible for the figures should be held to account and judgement. More importantly, there is not one single word that seeks to explain or justify the unbelievably divergent figures!

Here are some examples comparing the figures provided in the 2019/20 Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) and what we are now presented with.

Carnegie Pool Redevelopment: Capital costs of $47.6M from 2020/21 to 2023/4 (Capital costs of $39M in 2019/20!)

Elsternwick Community Hub & Park: $47M (majority of spend in 2024/5 to 2027/8) In 2019 – $31.8M

Selwyn Street Cultural Precinct: $5.6M to be completed in 2023/4 (2019; $5.5M)

Stanley Street Multi-deck Carpark: $22.32M completed in 2023/4 (In 2019 17.3M)

Koornang Road Streetscape & Upgrade: $6.5M (majority of spend in 2025/6 to 2028/9) (2019 – $6.15)

Eat Street rotunda: $5.1M to be completed in 2021/2)(in 2019 $1.8M)

Bentleigh Library Upgrade: $6.3M to be completed in 2022/3 (In 2019 $3.5M)

Bleazby Street Carpark: $15.7M completed in 2023/4 (not listed in 2019 but Horsely Street was listed at $1.6M with majority of spend in 2029/30!)

Fair enough that prices have increased over the year. However, no sensible person will accept the massive increases suggested in the above comparison. So what does this tell us about council plans and what they are not revealing.

All  of this can be summed up neatly with the following screen dumps from the 2019/20 version and the current draft SRP.

How and why on earth should forecast spending jump from $90 million to $160M or even from $140 million to $160M. Have residents really been consulted on whether this is what they want? Is it wise spending when so many people have lost their jobs and/or are in financial difficulties? Do we really need such massive infrastructure projects and borrowings that will keep us in hock for decades? Of course, this council never bothers to present a complete picture or to consult its residents. And as some residents have already asked – have any of our extremely well paid administrators and/or councillors taken a pay cut in the current COVID situation?

Adding more insult to injury, we find the following increases:

240L waste bin – $515 up from $441 last year

120L waste bin – $255 up from $220 last year

Child care

0-3 year olds: $140 per day up from $137 last year

3-5 year olds: $132 per day up from $129 last year

Pensioner rebate contribution – $29 last year was $36 and in 2016 was $59!!!!!

Staff EFT: FROM 860.19 TO 873.86 plus a 2.5% increase in wages!

We keep reading about council’s reduced income stream as a result of COVID, yet there is nothing in this budget or the SRP which indicates a tightening of the belt, a reduction in spending, and a reduction in grandiose contruction plans. Nor is there anything to indicate that council will increase the amount of open space so desperately lacking in this municipality.