A candidate for Briars ward at the coming council election is trying to persuade all other candidates to put their names to a full page advertisement demanding rates cuts. The candidate, John Woodman, states the advert is due to appear in local newspapers next week.
The advert states: “Vote for candidates who support DOWN WITH RATES DOWN WITH COUNCIL DEBT” – sentiments with which few would disagree, including those who are aware that shire rates are now capped and that the shire debt is being reduced rapidly.
Mr Woodman, director of the planning and development services company Watsons Pty Ltd, appears to be unaware of these developments over the past two years, widely reported in the metropolitan and local media, including the newspapers in which he intends to place his advertisement.
Mr Woodman today extended the deadline for candidates to respond from 5pm on Tuesday 27 September to midday on 28 September.
One candidate told the Bandicoot: “Mr Woodman said in a message today to ̔please ensure you have replied YES or NO prior to midday tomorrow (28/09/16) otherwise we will be running the ad indicating that you chose not to comment.”
The candidate said he “felt intimidated” by the tone of the message, which provides candidates with the choice of “yes”, “no” or “no comment”. The third option carries the clear implication that a candidate is either dodging the question or is inclined to support rate rises and high debt or is indifferent to the issues.
Prompted by complaints, the Mornington Peninsula Residents and Ratepayers has written to all candidates:
Some concerned candidates have forwarded a copy of an email which includes their name in a proposed advertisement to be placed in the local papers by a Briars Ward candidate without their authorisation.
The concerns are that this is a “push-pull” poll. The inference being that if you do not comment then you do not support the sensible management of rates and debt.
It also appears that the candidate is unaware, and therefore the advertisement is misleading, of the current situation with regard to the Shire’s management of rates and debt.
While our Association has supported and lobbied for reduced rates and lower debt for over a decade, the Briars Ward candidate does not seem to be aware that the State Government has already legislated that future rates will be capped at about CPI.
The rate cap was set at a maximum increase of 2.5% for this financial year – the lowest increase for 20 years. In future the rate cap is to be set by the State Government each December and it is expected that the increase will continue to be capped at about CPI (ie about 2.5%).
Any further reduction below CPI needs to be carefully considered when the Council prepares its annual budget as a lesser increase may make the council unviable.
Further, the Shire has been rapidly reducing debt over the last 4 years. In 2012 borrowings were around $50 million, however by the end of the 2016-17 financial year (June 2017) borrowings will be reduced to $19.4 million.
This includes a reduction already allowed in this year’s budget of $7.04 million.
CONCERNED CANDIDATES CAN SEND A COMPLAINT TO
Victorian Electoral Commission
Bandicoot backs this letter. The issues the advert raises require a rather more sophisticated response than being “with” Mr Woodman – who also demands better performance “of Council’s property portfolio” – or “against” him.
Mr Woodman is simply another candidate, with no special position to be “conducting a survey” to support his populist campaign.
The advert is incomplete, showing only four of the five candidates in Cerberus ward. An earlier version incorrectly identified as candidates several contact people, friends who are council candidates.
In a flier sent to candidates some time ago Mr Woodman asked: “If elected, will you support the policy of reducing Council rates, charges and Council debt through better management of services, delivery of infrastructure and performance of Councils [sic] property portfolio?
“The results of this survey will be published in a full page advertisement in the local Mornington Peninsula newspaper, delivered free to over 55,000 Peninsula residences during week commencing the 3rd October 2016.
“To ensure your view is registered in time, please reply to this email providing your response … by 5pm on Tuesday 27th September 2016.”