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Council buckles to Alliance pressure

A media release from City of Greater Bendigo has confirmed that councillors have buckled to pressure from the Bendigo Alliance and the local community over its proposed budget.

Council has backed down on increases to many charges and fees - but we do not know if that is all of new 80 fees they put in the budget - and frozen other costs on businesses and the community.

And the Bendigo Alliance was proud to have supported efforts to have funding reinstated for community bands. Another council backflip showing this current council is completely out of touch with the community.

Here is what council has now said after facing community backlash:

Greater Bendigo City Council will consider a revised 2020/2021 Budget document when it meets on Wednesday July 15.

Following the community consultation period, the Budget now includes a freeze on fees and charges for a variety of facilities and services, to further ease the financial pressure on residents.

The freeze affects over 500 separate fees and charges, including those related to the hire of Council facilities. It does not apply to statutory fees (set by legislation or contracts), newly introduced fees or fees where Council would risk undercutting the private sector.

Council received 46 submissions to its draft Budget released in May, with 15 of the submitters requesting the opportunity to present their submission via video-conferencing.  A number of these submissions were comments on initiatives already included within the Budget.   

After consideration by Council, the following submissions were allocated separate funds:

  • $18,000 to the Community Brass and Concert Bands

  • $20,000 for in-kind support to the Bendigo Maubisse Friendship Committee, supporting East Timor

  • $4,000 toward scoping for a pontoon at Lake Weeroona

  • $4,000 toward progression of scoping for a pontoon at Lake Neangar

  • $16,000 toward the construction of a new fence in Marong (between the Alternate Calder Highway and the Service Road). 

Director Corporate Performance Andrew Cooney said the COVID-19 pandemic had caused significant disruption to the Greater Bendigo economy and put strain on many residents.

The City has put together a comprehensive Budget response for our community with initiatives totalling $7.8M, not including capital works,” Mr Cooney said.

Highlights of that response include:

  • Residents and businesses can enter a payment plan or apply for financial hardship consideration when paying for rates, fees and charges

  • Implementing the Working for Victoria initiative in the City of Greater Bendigo, creating more than 100 jobs (supported by the State Government)

  • Commercial rent charges halved through to December 31, 2020 for tenants in Council-owned buildings experiencing financial hardship

  • A “Love your Local” campaign to increase local and regional spend and assist with financial recovery

  • A waiver of various fees under the Local Law such as A-frame, outdoor dining and goods for display permit fees for impacted businesses

  • 50% reduction of food, health and accommodation registration fees for the 2021 calendar year for impacted businesses

  • Free business development webinars, in partnership with Be.Bendigo

  • $500,000 for ongoing event attraction/acquisition in sport and leisure, food and wine, arts and culture, business, car club and agricultural events

  • $350,000 to attract new exhibitions to Bendigo Art Gallery over the next financial yearAdvocating to State and Federal Governments for stimulus funding for local infrastructure projects and support for residents and businesses

In addition to these initiatives, the Budget includes $48M of capital works to build and maintain essential infrastructure.

“The true long-term impacts of COVID-19 on our local communities, businesses and Council’s own operations are not yet fully known, though our current estimate of its impact on this year’s Budget is over $2.9M, this is separate from the $7.8M in initiatives,” Mr Cooney said.

“Prior to the pandemic, Council was aiming to deliver a near breakeven Budget. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City’s operations means we are forecasting a deficit for the 2020/2021 year, like both the State and Federal Governments.

“We have worked hard to meet community needs while still creating a responsible Budget, which will still allow us to continue to provide all the essential services our community relies upon every day.”

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