Bendigo ratepayers association floated

Aims of the proposed ratepayers group include holding the council accountable to its residents.
Aims of the proposed ratepayers group include holding the council accountable to its residents.

RELATED: Lack of lobby group hurting ratepayers

BENDIGO has been flagged as a city in need of a ratepayers group.

Ratepayers Victoria has informed members it “hopes shortly to open new branches in Bendigo, Shepparton, Wangaratta and Bairnsdale.”

The group aims to boost accountability and transparency in local governments, and promote collaboration between councils and residents.

Plans for a Bendigo sub-group are in the early stages.

Ratepayers Victoria vice president Frank Sullivan said he was arranging a meeting to gauge interest in the idea.

The meeting is likely to take place next next month.

“The purpose of a ratepayer group in Bendigo is to give the ratepayers of Bendigo assistance and guidance, when required, regarding problems with their council,” Mr Sullivan said.

“It is accepted that where there is a ratepayer group that council seems to operate more smoothly.”

Feedback from the Bendigo community has informed the group’s plans to establish a sub-branch in the city.

But it is not yet known how many representations Ratepayers Victoria has received.

The city’s last known ratepayer group was the Bendigo Ratepayers Association of Council Scrutineers, which was operational from 2006 – 2008.

Its former spokesman, Martin Ruffell, told the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this year he believed ratepayers were suffering from the lack of a collective body scrutinising the council.

“I would suggest a ratepayers association is integral,” Mr Ruffell said upon learning about the proposed group

He believed an autonomous body holding the council to task would be beneficial for the community.

But Mr Ruffell had some advice to offer those who chose to get involved:

“Be aware you won’t be able to change the world as you like,” Mr Ruffell said.

“Even amongst a ratepayer’s association, you’ll probably have different opinions.”

In the absence of an association, Bendigo resident Michael McKenzie it had been left to individuals to scrutinise the local government.

“The way council operates, it’s fairly difficult to exert meaningful pressure [as an individual],” he said.

While the idea of a collective effort was agreeable to Mr McKenzie, fellow resident Ted Coleman was not convinced it would be effective.

“I don’t see the necessity,” Mr Coleman said.

“There are sufficient groups and individuals in place to keep council up-to-date.”