Newsletters

KNOX RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTERS 2015
Mailchimp Newsletter Archive:

Our latest Newsletter – November 2015

In it we have news about Local Government, a newly formed group Eastern Ratepayers, Rate Capping, visit to Parliament House to meet Minister Hutchins, Frank’s presentation to the Chinese Australia Accord, the Ratepayers Victoria event on Reengineering Local Government and photos. Here is the link.

February 2015

Snail Mail Newsletter:
Following is the first newsletter which was posted via snail mail to members who do not receive emails and here is the link to the online one, which has links to various things and a membership form attached, which may be convenient for you. Here it is.

12 February 2015

Dear Ratepayer

This is Knox Ratepayers Association (KRA)’s first newsletter for 2015 and also we remind you that fees are due for the 2015 year.

Firstly KRA would like to thank “The Knox Leader” for their support over recent times. Their reports are an important avenue for KRA to let you know what is happening.

Rate Capping
The good news for the Ratepayers of Victoria, is that the newly elected State Government have stated that they will honour their election promise to cap rates to the CPI. The new Local Government Minister, Natalie Hutchins has said that as Councils have already started to prepare their budgets for this year 2015, that the capping of rates to the CPI will not occur until 2016. The Minister, has warned that that if any Council raises rates this year 2015, by unnecessary amounts, it will be noted by her department. There was an article recently in the Knox Leader regarding the capping of rates. Knox Mayor Peter Lockwood, stated that if rates were capped that this would strangle Councils. KRA suggest strongly that Mr. Lockwood should have a good look at their own Council operations. Last Year 2014 the Knox budget was approximately 160 million of this some 90 million was spent on administration. There seems to no accountability at this Council. KRA have been told that there was a review of Council operations late 2014.This was an internal review and when questioned as to why this was not an external review, the comment was “internal review will save money”. As you can guess the review stated “Council want more staff”.

Council Attendance by KRA
KRA are still attending the monthly Knox Council Meetings. After each meeting a report is done and posted on our website, knoxratepayers.com, under a heading ‘Frank’s Blog’. This is where much information is obtained and conveyed to you. KRA consider that the Councillor is elected to represent you at Council. It follows that you as the Ratepayer should know what your elected Councillor votes for or otherwise. Too often when Council elections come up, the next one being October 2016, those standing for elections will tell you anything to get your vote. You the Ratepayer have a responsibility at Council election time to question that person that you are going to vote for, as to what their policies on such as control of rates, development and so on.

Rate Payers Victoria 2015 Seminar
KRA have a representative on the Committee of Ratepayers Victoria (RPV). KRA have been advised that RPV will hold a seminar late this year 2015. The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews and Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins will be invited.

There are some 50 ratepayer groups in Victoria and they will be invited to the seminar to hear of the problems that Ratepayers throughout Victoria are experiencing. We as ratepayer groups have to work with the present State government to point to them where the problems are in the present Local Government system are and to see can changes be made to the present system to make Victoria a better place to live. It is the State Government that have the power to legislate changes at Council level.

Membership 2015
Memberships for the current year 2015 are now due as at 1th January 2015. The committee in 2014 decided to introduce a free membership, for those for whom reasons could not pay the annual membership of $10.00. The free membership would entitle you to receive newsletters and information, however you would not have voting rights at the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

We do hope that you will continue to support us as a financial member. Printing and postage are our main expenses. We at KRA are volunteers working to improve the system for you the ratepayer, especially pensioners and young families.

KRA do ask you to assist us in the battle to get us justice for the ratepayer by asking your friends or family to join KRA as either a financial member of a free member. The more members we have the stronger our voice will be.

Lack of Transparency
At present there is little or no transparency at any Council in Victoria. On the 4th June 2014, Ratepayers Victoria wrote to the then Liberal Local Government Minister regarding their concern regarding the lack of accountability at Council level. RPV requested that the Local Government Minister appoint an independent administrator to all of the 79 Council in Victoria.

This appointment would not there to tell the democratically elected Councillor what to do, but to ensure that the Council procedures are been correctly adhered to. This appointment would have been made by the Local government department and answer to them, not Council.

At present if you the ratepayer have a problem you have to use your money to fight for justice, but Council will use your money to fight you. You the ratepayer have nowhere to turn to. Do you think the present system is fair, KRA do not.

RPV did point out to the L.G. Minister the many other aspects that this Administrator could overseer. Why do Council contractors get up to three times more for a Council contract than at the private sector? KRA get reports that good roads and footpaths are torn up to give contractors work, when there was a balance in their budget waiting to be spent before the end of the financial year.

Contractors are been paid to clean the Council public toilets, some once a day some twice a day. By the complaints and observations made to KRA this cleaning is not been done as such. Do you the Ratepayer feel you are getting value for the money paid to Council? This Administrator would overseer these aspects.

The Local Government Minister wrote back to Ratepayers Victoria and stated there was nothing in the Local Government Act to make such an appointment, RPV wrote back to the Minister and said if that is so ‘Change the Act”. Nothing happened and we know that his Government is now in opposition. If governments do not listen to the people they will very soon be in opposition.

 KNOX RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION INCORPORATED
MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION

 Please circle YES. I/we wish to join the KRA in the fight to keep Knox Council Accountable.

Please circle if you wish to receive an Annual Renewal

Annual Fee $10.00

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Please make cheques payable to: Knox Ratepayers Association

Mail cheques to: PO Box 6023, Wantirna Mall 3152

 

PAST NEWSLETTERS

December 2013 Newsletter to Members

Dear Member

With Christmas approaching fast, many household budgets are feeling the squeeze. Christmas gifts for the kids or grandchildren, wouldn’t it be nice if our Council rates were just a little bit less? You could then use the saved money for these preferred expenses.

Knox Ratepayers is all about ensuring Council is accountable and more efficient and not wasting your hard earned money. Since our last newsletter we have been busy doing that.

Community Awareness

Our community needs to be aware of what goes on in Council and for that matter point out what’s really happening.

If you are a regular reader of the Knox Leader Newspaper you will have noticed a number of articles where Knox Ratepayers have featured. Such as:

  • Our rates increase vs. inflation, rates are almost double yet we don’t see double the services or benefits offered by Council.
  • Concerns regarding our Council allowing the basketball group to become excessively behind in their rent payments; any other tenant would have been evicted well before this much debt was accumulated.
  • Questions over Council sending five people to attend a seminar in Perth when one or two could have achieved the same outcome.
  • Concern about the victimisation of some of our residents by Council Officers who believe they are the law unto themselves, rather than understanding that they are public servants paid for by residents to look after residents. As a community, the more we become aware of these events, the more our Council will realise that they can’t do these things and hope to get away with it.
  • It was also interesting reading in the Herald Sun that Knox was also singled out for giving donations that appeared to be outside of normal Council guidelines.

Working With The Victorian State Government

We have been invited by the Minister for local government to help provide community input into a Project Team working on a new local government performance reporting. This Project will involve the setting of new standards for local Councils in how they will operate, particularly around transparency and Key Performance Indicators.

Our treasurer Frank has now attended a number of these meetings and given our inputs on a range of concerns, namely contractors, officer powers, and the roles of audit committees, the last meeting was held in early November.

We have the latest draft of the new framework available should any of our members want to view it. The expectation is that this new framework will come into power during 2014.

We have also been contacted by the Victorian Auditors General Office to seek our inputs on areas where they could plan future audits on local Councils.

Your Strong Committee

We have seen a new life with a number of new committee members with strong skills in building our association.

Sadly Max Bomford has decided to step down from committee, we thank him for all his contributions.

There is still a vacancy on the Committee, if you would like to join our Committee which meets once a month for a couple of hours, then please feel free to contact one of the existing committee members and discuss with us what role you could play.

Strategic Direction For 2014

On October 27 our Committee held a Strategy and Planning Meeting where we discussed a number of topics. The key focus was to work out how we could create more influence with the Council and be heard at all the right levels.

The overall result is we are working towards increasing our membership. This leads us down a path of deciding on some new categories of membership, increased use of social media and developing a whole new branding strategy to attract new membership segments such as younger people and business groups, as well as residents of Knox who are not necessarily ratepayers. For example they may be tenants in Knox.

The Committee has been working through these strategic ideas and we will announce all the changes very soon. We see this as a very exciting time for Knox Ratepayers Association as we grow into a new more vibrant community representative group.

Committee Meetings

The committee would like to extend an open invitation to all members to attend any time that they are able to. We see these meetings as open forums for Members to come and raise their concerns and also participate in the discussions we have. You may not have voting rights at these meeting as they are reserved for committee members, however it’s a great way to learn more about our community and in particular what happens at the Council level.

We will publish on our website our 2014 meetings dates and venues so that you can decide to attend if you wish.

Our First Life Member

Prior to stepping down Max nominated Frank Sullivan to be made a life member of Knox Ratepayers Associaton. This was in recognition of his continuing commitment for membership drives, Council meeting attendance and role as secretary and being a founding member.

The committee reviewed this recommendation then voted to accept this nomination, congratulations Frank on achieving this milestone.

Knox City Council Community Priorities Survey

Please take the time to complete and send it back, it’s a free postpaid mail. We would also encourage you to add a comment that a priority should be to reduce all future rate increases in line with inflation or lower. If you haven’t seen a copy of the survey we have one on our website that you can download.

The Committee wishes you all a safe and happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

July 2013 Newsletter

Dear Member

It’s that time of year again when we need to hold our Annual General Meeting and elect your new committee. This year your committee has been working extremely hard and I must say extremely well together.

Please look out for the committee nomination forms, proxy materials and 20 August 2013 AGM details.

I would like to thank the committee for their contributions and efforts and for those not running again in 2013/14, we will miss you. We will have some vacancies on the committee so if you have some spare time and want to get involved please feel free to join the committee.
We meet on the evening of the 2nd Tuesday of each month for about two hours.

The 2012/13 year overview

Our E-profile

We have revamped our image with the introductions of our Facebook page, new website and email contacts.

This is the first step in getting a real time process in place where we get feedback from our members as well keep our members engaged in topics and issues on which we are working. I encourage you all to log in and like KRA on Facebook, share it with your friends and neighbours, the more likes and hits we get the more serious our councillors will take us and the more impact we will have when we give community input. Check us out on the following links.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Knox-Ratepayers-Association/324776730977219?ref=stream

http://www.knoxratepayers.org/

Build Better Relationships with Councillors

We have been regularly meeting with some of our councillors and the Mayor to give feedback on our concerns with rate increases, accountability and transparency of our council operations.  Overall we would say our newly elected councillors are making small steps in the right directions, but we believe that they need to have stronger measures in place to prevent overspending and hold the Council Officers more accountable. We just cannot afford to keep increasing rates and borrowing money to stay viable.  General households and businesses in Knox are not seeing improved council services yet we continually get hit with double inflation rate increases. We need to voice our concerns. We have held more informal councillor meetings this past year than ever before in KRA history and we will continue to grow and foster this space.

Council Elections

We ran newspaper advertisements publically endorsing candidates running for 2012 council elections. The positive impacts included; having some of these candidates elected, giving our input to the community who do not have time or interest in researching their choices at election time.

Increasing our local press coverage 

Overall KRA’s visibility in local press increased tremendously over the past year, our opinions were sought on election issues & current issues, such as council spending, our concerns with Rate increases and proposed Australian Constitutional changes. This press coverage, in itself, creates public awareness and influences community views. This will eventually lead to positive change.

Membership and fund raising efforts

 This year we have made a concerted effort to increase our membership. It’s pleasing to report that we are currently signing up approximately 10 new members a month. We held a couple of sausage sizzles and this generated a lot of interest in KRA. These events were great opportunities to meet with the residents, get their inputs, raise some money and get our message out that the community needs to be involved. Financially we have significantly improved our overall position this year and we will keep working on this to enable us to publicly address major issues in the future.

Input into the Victoria Auditors General Office and State Government review on council’s key performance indicators

In July 2012, along with Monash and Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers associations, KRA were asked to contribute to a review of rate calculations to the Victoria Auditors General Office. This review was tabled at State Parliament on 20 February 2013 The VAGO summarized it as:

“While councils work within a common rating framework when determining their rates, these lack clarity and detail. This has contributed to inconsistencies in the rating practices of the councils audited, and the quality and soundness of council rating decisions.” If you’re interested in reading the full report it can be found at  

http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/reports_and_publications/latest_reports/2012-13/20130220-lg-rating-practices.aspx

In June 2013 KRA joined a sub-committee of other ratepayer groups and gave input to the State Governments review of setting new policy around aligning council plans and budgets with a new performance reporting framework.

This will include moving to a zero based budget setting process with more transparency. This is music to our ears.

The current reporting and accountability framework will continue in its current form, with a view to reviewing existing requirements to enact the new framework in 2014.

If you would like to know more on this project you can read about it on the following link.

http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/localgovernment/projects-and-programs/performance-reporting

Both these requests for our inputs highlight the respect we have at State Government levels and influence we have to make changes.

Spread the word

KRA are a group of voluntary people who are independently watching Knox council trying to get Knox ratepayers a better deal. We need support from as many ratepayers as possible. We ask you to talk to your friends, neighbours, local shopkeepers & business owners to join KRA so we can continue our fight against the ever rising costs that are inflicted on ratepayers by councils.

I look forward to seeing you at our annual General meeting on August 20 and if you have any questions please contact us.

Ian Watts

President

Knox Ratepayers Association Inc

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February 2013 Newsletter

 

Dear Member 

We hope 2013 will be very prosperous one for all our supporters and look forward to a challenging year ahead.

At our AGM last year I had the honour of being appointed President of KRA, to the outgoing Acting President David McKenzie a very special thank you for steering KRA through a very difficult time, these times are now behind us and we are now moving forward with a new committee and new invigoration to make changes within Knox.

Council Elections

During the recent council elections we increased our profile through a process of surveying each of the candidates that were running then publicly endorsing those that we felt would stand up and be counted when the time mattered, especially around tough council decisions on budget and controversial building approvals. We were successful in getting a couple of our endorsed candidates in council which was very pleasing but in addition to this we believe we lifted the profile of some candidates that enabled them to increase their votes for preferences.

Overall KRA’s visibility in local press increased tremendously with comments being made about our influence and being sought out for opinion which was a great step for us.

Learning’s that we took out of this election that we can use in four years time is that we need to be at pre-polling, we need to offer our endorsed candidates some manpower on polling day, and we need to make more time to prepare for it.    

Working with Councillors

Since the council elections we have taken the view to not only work with our endorsed candidates but to build working relationships with as many councillors as possible. We have started a series of informal chats with a number of councillors including Karin Orpen our newly elected Mayor, to indicate to them that KRA have some serious concerns about unnecessary spending of your rate money and something needs to be done if we are to control future rate increases. The pleasing thing from these meetings are that they are listening and taking our opinions seriously and we are fostering continuing relationships that can only help us influence outcomes in the up coming budget setting process.

Moving KRA forward

Our new committee is working hard to bring KRA into the 21st century; very shortly we will have a new website and different ways to electronically connect with you and the rest of the community. This is so important to help us engage with all our members and to also increase our membership and our ability to influence. As you are aware that a representative from KRA attends all council meetings and this is where we find out vital information and we want to pass that information on to you. You will see in our membership application form attached that we are asking each of you to provide us with your email address so that we can keep directly in touch with you.

Development within Knox

A Knox Ratepayer concern has been high density development. As much as we would like to have no development we have to accept it will happen but we want it to be appropriate for Knox. We ask if you are aware of what you consider inappropriate development to contact KRA and we will see if we can help. KRA do not want developers to come to Knox and get rich by destroying our beautiful community so a section of KRA’s committee will focus on this. We are also partnering with Mary Drost, a tireless protector of our heritage in Victoria. She has indicated that through community involvement VACT rulings on councils decisions are starting to change. Mary said that until recently VACT would over rule some 80% of council decisions, now she says that is down to 50%. Mary and actor Geoff Rush recently saved Camberwell Station from been redeveloped, a terrific win.

Good signs from our new council

Our new Council is moving in the right direction; at the 15th Dec 2012 council meeting it was great to hear new councillor Nicole Seymour (Tirhatuan Ward) question as to why a project at Carrington Park Ferntree Gully came in $93,000 over budget.

Cr. Seymour asked the council officers to investigate as to why and report back to council. The mayor Cr. Orpen congratulated Cr. Seymour on her endeavour to investigate the file and question it. Cr. Orpen then reminded her fellow councillors that they are dealing with real money, not counterfeit money. That pensioners and young families have to find this money and it’s so easy to spend other people’s money.

Rorting by contractors

KRA recently wrote to all Knox Councillors concerning an article that appeared in the “AGE” newspaper in Nov. 2012. It was claimed that there had been little or no control on contractors at State Government level. KRA requested that all Knox councillors be ever diligent regarding Knox contractor services. We don’t want Knox ratepayers feeling that their hard earned dollars being paid to council is being rorted by contractors, it’s our money and it needs to be appropriately managed.

Input into the Victoria Auditors General Office

In July 2012 along with Monash and Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers associations KRA were asked to contribute to a review of rate calculations to the Victoria Auditors General Office. This review was tabled at State Parliament on 20 February 2013 with good press cover and I am sure more to come.  The VAGO summarized it as:

“This audit assessed the adequacy of rating practices by local councils. Victoria’s 79 councils rely heavily on the revenue generated by property-based rates and charges to provide services to local communities. While councils work within a common rating framework when determining their rates, these lack clarity and detail. This has contributed to inconsistencies in the rating practices of the councils audited, and the quality and soundness of council rating decisions.” If you’re interested in reading the full report it can be found at  

http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/reports_and_publications/latest_reports/2012-13/20130220-lg-rating-practices.aspx

At last we have found a sympathetic ear to our complaints and finally we have a government department taking up our call to look into these problems, we will keep you posted on this as it progresses.

Annual subscriptions due

One of our recent decisions has been to clean up our membership renewal process, we have decided membership be determined on an annual basis starting January 1 each year with membership subscriptions due and paid within two months of this date to be considered current. As we are starting this now, 2012 memberships will lapse at the end of March 2013. We look forward to your continued membership and support as we move forward.

Membership drive

KRA are a group of voluntary people who are independently watching Knox council trying to get Knox ratepayers a better deal. We need support from as many ratepayers as possible and we ask that you join us. We ask you to talk to your friends and neighbours to join KRA so we can continue our fight against the ever rising costs that are inflicted on ratepayers by councils.

If you have any questions please contact us.

Ian Watts

President

Knox Ratepayers Association Incorporated

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