Archive:   Essential Services Commission [ESC]

Last Updated  2/11/15



NEW  Final Rate Capping and Variation Framework Released by Essential Services Commission

(2/11/15 - C)   It's a document that appears more strongly influenced by Councils than community  Rates Capping File

At over 150 pages, this report is not light reading but it does seem thorough.  


The first thing to understand is that the Framework isn't about stopping Councils from increasing rates, it's about capping (limiting) how much rates can be increased.  The original thinking behind this was to encourage Councils to reassess their spending priorities (what they spend rates on).  Hasn't gone down well with Councils, and as only two quotes from individuals (presumably community members) made it into the Framework report, it appears to overwhelmingly respond to Councils rather than community views.


Although the final proposed Framework does impose a rates cap, it also contains a variations process that allows Councils to 'permanently' vary (i.e. bypass) the rates cap for up to 4 years (which is a whole Council term), or 'temporarily' vary it (primarily for a single year).  This means Councils can potentially avoid the rates cap altogether.   Applications for variations are to be made to the Essential Services Commission, which will determine whether to accept or refuse a Council's application.  There are standards about what a Council has to do to have a variation approved, including standards for consulting communities on rates cap variations - but none of these standards are mandatory. 


You can access the final Framework document by going to the ESC's website - Latest Publications.


MRRA Says:

All up, although on paper it imposes an additional layer of accountability and transparency for higher rate increases, the Framework doesn't seem to do a lot to encourage a rethink of spending priorities, and from a community perspective it's a fairly disappointing outcome.  If this Framework is accepted/adopted by the State government, we will all just have to 'suck it and see' how it works in practice.   Unfortunately, we already know how that usually goes in Macedon Ranges Shire, and we won't be holding our breath waiting for a responsible response - the ink's probably already dry on Council's first application for a variation. 


Draft Rates Capping and Variation Framework Out For Comment - Submissions Close August 28

( 10/8/15 - C)   Some you win, some you lose  Rates Capping file

The Essential Services Commission is calling for feedback on its draft Rates Capping and Variation Framework, which when adopted by the State government, will come into effect in next year's (2016/17) budget.  Documents on exhibition comprise two volumes (both hefty but well-spaced and readable).  The first (Volume 1 - ) is the Framework itself - what's proposed, what has been considered, and where to from here.  The second (Volume 2 - 244 pages) is Supporting Material and Analysis, providing further insight into the Framework.  Both are available from the Essential Services Commission's website  In very simple terms, the proposed cap is 0.6 of Consumer Price Index plus 0.4 of Wages Price Index less efficiencies.


MRRA Says:

 The sticking point for us (and probably a lot of ratepayers) is that one of the Framework's recommendations is that Councils can vary the rate cap (hence the Framework's title: "Rate Capping and Variation Framework").  There are  guidelines for doing this, but...  Although Councils will only be able to vary the cap for a single year in the first year of the Framework's operation (2016/17), after that it is proposed Councils can vary from the cap for 2 years in the second year, and up to 4 years after that.  If that happens, MRRA is having trouble working out what the "cap" in "rates capping" is. 


Alarm bells are also ringing on two other fronts. 


The first is that if a Council wants to vary the rates cap, it has to demonstrate it has consulted its community.  Well!  Here in sunny Macedon Ranges, we all know how that works - Council taps a few people who support what it wants, asks them what they think, then says it has consulted comprehensively, extensively, exhaustively.  Like it consulted over completely changing the Council website and Shire logo - what was it - 200 or 400 hand-picked people supposedly had a say?  Council called that 'consulting comprehensively'.   Or the Shire's Vision - without a word, threw out the community-endorsed Vision 2025 and replaced it with something else.  Nope, can't remember any consultation on that one...  Or the equine (everything) centre - where Council fell over backwards advertising its survey - not to its community - but to people in the equine industry.  It was also handy that the survey asked questions about things Council hadn't even identified, for example, the centre's location (Council is still saying it hasn't identified a site).  The other thing most Macedon Ranges residents have noticed is that when or if Council does consult its community, it more often than not doesn't have all the necessary information/documentation, or the information is incorrect, and/or Council just plain lies.  Remember how Amendment C84, which totally rewrites all local policy in the Shire's planning scheme, was advertised by Council as a "policy-neutral" translation?    And if all else fails, Council just ignores submissions.


The second problem is that the Essential Services Commission (which proposes itself as the authority to oversee implementation of the rates capping and variation framework) intends to rely on Councils' Annual Reports, Budgets and the like for financial information.  Ye Gods!  You can't possibly mean the Macedon Ranges' budgets and annual reports, where the previous year's adopted budgets are changed, where unannounced budget changes are made between draft and adoption, where NO-ONE can work out how much the Shire owes and Council won't tell us, where numbers don't relate or add up, where the dollar amount of carried over capital works is shaping up to overtake the dollar amount of capital works actually done??!!    Exquisitely courageous, but they are going to need more than 'good luck' with that.  Ratepayers, of course, will lose.  Again.


The Association will be attending a Framework ratepayer group's forum this week, at the invitation of the Essential Services Commission.  As you can see, there's a thing or two we already want to add to the conversation.




Essential Services Commission Releases Local Government Reporting Framework

(8/8/10 - SG)  Also, latest ESC newsletter and next consultation details (for councils) 

The Victorian government has released the Essential Services Commission [ESC]'s final report Establishing a Victorian Local Government Services report. 


The report and other documents can be accessed by going to ESC's website

or directly by the following link.


Click here for details about meetings the ESC is holding for councils.

Click here to see the latest ESC newsletter