Oppose the new Bin Tax in Yarra!

Text from Socialist Councillor Stephen Jolly’s Autumn 2017 newsletter, distributed to 35,000 homes in Melbourne.

Oppose the new Bin Tax!

Yarra Council is planning to introduce a new tax on residents to collect bins. I am opposed to this as providing core services like rubbish collection should be included in the council rates we already pay. Last year the state government put a 2.5% cap on rate rises, meaning councils are looking for new ways to slug residents with new charges.

The proposed “Waste Service Charge” will be added as a seperate billing item alongside council rates and will start at $220 for households and go up to $800 for businesses. The charge is a flat tax that applies to all regardless of property size, value or household income. This means that it is a regressive tax, taking a larger percentage of income from low income households than high income households. Yarra already has a staggering divide between rich and poor. We don’t need a new tax to widen it further!

Shamefully, in February a majority of Councillors voted in favour of the bin tax, including Greens and Labor Councillors. I voted against the new tax and warned the other Councillors to expect community backlash. The anger from residents is already clear and I will be organising public meetings and encouraging residents to oppose the bin tax.

Yarra Council is wasting the revenue from the property boom at a time when more public investment should be made to accommodate our growing community. Inflated property prices mean that Yarra Council will see rate revenue increase by 11% next year to a record $113 million.

Rather than use the increased revenue to expand services, Yarra Council has instead borrowed millions of dollars to buy a new office building in Richmond (despite the three Town Halls providing more than enough space) and now want to spend a further $200,000 on new furniture!

While frontline council services are desperately understaffed, Yarra Council is over-managed at the top. For example, Yarra Council has 40% more corporate management staff than Port Phillip Council, despite Port Phillip being much larger in terms of land, population and number of dwellings. Yarra council has 51% more corporate management than Boroondara Council, and 64% more than Stonnington Council.

This bloated bureaucracy at the top of Yarra Council means Yarra spends far less on capital investment (public infrastructure) than other councils. Port Phillip spends 22% more, Boroondara spends 88% more and Stonnington spends an enormous 116% more on public infrastructure!

The top heavy nature of Yarra Council will only get worse with the upcoming budget. While crying poor and slugging ratepayers with a new bin tax, the majority on Yarra Council plan to increase corporate management staff by 24 positions this year.

Rather than use ratepayer revenue to create more managerial positions, I support a budget that focuses on service delivery and increasing frontline staff. Ending the waste at the top is the first step, not tapping ratepayers for more money.

The refusal to deal with this over-management not only means residents will be hit with a new bin tax, it also means that the proposed budget only funds $2 million of the $11 million in vital projects that residents have fought for.

If you want more information about the bin tax and how we can stop it, contact me.

Make a submission on the bin tax

A special meeting of Yarra Council will be held on Wednesday 17 May 2017 6:30pm at Richmond Town Hall to hear public submissions on the bin tax. You can also submit via yarracity.vic.gov.au

It’s time for serious drug reform

Yarra is the centre of the ice and heroin trade in Melbourne. Needles on the street, regular overdoses and opportunistic burglaries are the realities faced by residents of Abbotsford and North Richmond.

The State Government has focused on an ineffective law and order approach to this complex social crisis. The installation of CCTV cameras will only push the problem further into residential backstreets. It’s time to acknowledge that the war on drugs has failed. We need to adopt a new approach.

More and more people agree that a supervised injecting facility should be trialled in North Richmond. This would not only help keep drug use and needles off the streets, but would also provide much needed healthcare and medical supervision for drug users. The example of Australia’s only supervised injecting facility in Kings Cross, Sydney, shows how this approach can be a huge success.

In March I helped organise a community meeting to discuss these issues and outline a strategy for change. Over 150 people crammed into the Yarra Hotel in Abbotsford to listen to experts and activists outline a harm minimisation approach to drug use.

At the meeting a resolution was passed unanimously to establish a community campaign to demand legislative change to trial a supervised injecting facility and pill testing in Yarra. To follow the campaign or get involved visit www.facebook.com/HarmMinimisationSavesLives or get in touch with me.

Attempts to zone out public housing students

Every kid should have access to a state school in their community. One of the first things I did when I moved to Melbourne in 1993 was join the community campaign to save Richmond Secondary College from closure under the Kennett government. After an epic struggle led by parents, students and community activists the school was reopened as a public school for girls, Melbourne Girls College. This was a victory against all odds, but Richmond has been lacking a co-ed state school ever since.

Almost a quarter of a century later, our campaign has been vindicated by the announcement that a new co-ed state school will be built in Richmond. Richmond High School will open in 2018 and be located on two campuses on Gleadell St behind the Richmond Town Hall.

Unfortunately, in the same week as this important win, zoning controversy at Melbourne Girls College made headlines. While including distant suburbs like Toorak, South Yarra and Kew, the zone for Melbourne Girls College cuts out the northeast of Richmond, which just so happens to be where the North Richmond public housing estate is located. This estate is one of the largest in Victoria and is home to hundreds of girls from low income, refugee and immigrant backgrounds. Excluding kids from the most diverse and working class part of Richmond, while including wealthy suburbs many kilometres away, is a blatant case of discrimination.

With the help of those who led the initial campaign, I successfully pushed for Yarra Council to call on the Education Department to change the zoning for Melbourne Girls College so that all girls in Richmond – regardless of their background – can access this prestigious state school we fought so hard to save.

 Council Newsletter Autumn 2017 pageslowres

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Council Newsletter Autumn 2017 pageslowres3

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