Mixed views on budget

A file photo of a Bendigo council meeting.

A file photo of a Bendigo council meeting.

Three councillors oppose six per cent rise

BENDIGO’S draft Budget has passed despite heated opposition from three City of Greater Bendigo councillors.

Councillors Peter Cox, Helen Leach, and Elise Chapman argued a six per cent rate rise was too high and residents could not afford the extra cost. 

Their speeches were met with applause from the public gallery on Wednesday night.

But councillors James Williams, Mark Weragoda, Rod Campbell, Barry Lyons and Rod Fyffe argued a lesser rise of four per cent would halt progress in the city.

Cr Cox argued the budget, if passed, would place additional stress on families after a tough Federal Budget.

“About 25 per cent of Bendigo adults are receiving government support through no fault of their own,” he said.  

“In other words, they’re on some kind of government benefit.

“If you take the western suburbs of Bendigo, unemployment is running at nine per cent.

“There are not enough jobs for the people who want to work, yet we’re imposing a six per cent rate rise on them.”

About 10 per cent of households could not afford to put food on the table each week, Cr Cox said.

He said City of Greater Bendigo staff wages could be a source of savings.

But Cr Campbell said it was easy to simplify the argument over two or three minutes, but said the council provided about 110 services for about 110,000 people.

He said the council’s hand was forced by cost shifting and costs the council could not control, and added it was “not easy” to have a four per cent rise.

“Local government is very, very complex,” he said.

“It’s all very well to get onto Twitter and make an opinion, but is it an informed opinion?

“Now I believe the suggestions that have been made in the Budget are informed.

“All the councillors here have put a considerable amount of time into them.”

Cr Fyffe described the Budget as “responsible” and necessary for a liveable city. 

Cr Lyons said the rate rise was necessary.

Cr Lisa Ruffell was an apology for the meeting. 

Councillors encouraged residents to provide feedback on the Budget. 

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