“ Master Plan and Recommendation Summary”
- click on pages to read letter to Paul Edbrooke
- Click on pages to read submission to Minister Billson re pharmacy location rules and Frankston Station
- To my Fellow Members.
As President of the Greater Frankston Business Chamber I have been actively representing your interests during the last month by making submissions and giving evidence to two Victorian Parliamentary Committees. These Committees have given the Greater Frankston Business Chamber (the GFBC) a forum to speak about both the unfair application of higher council rates on our members, and the pressing need for greater government involvement in business development in Frankston. The following is a summary of the case the GFBC submitted on behalf of the Frankston Business Community. The GFBC is very grateful for the assistance given by one of our new members, Christine Richards, in preparing and presenting these submissions.
Our submission is based on the proposition that the imposition of a higher rate (differential) on commercial and industrial properties in the municipality of Frankston last year was unfair, unprincipled and should be removed. The GFBC argues that the right of Councils to impose an additional differential on commercial and industrial properties should not be allowed unless and until affected businesses are given a right to vote in municipal elections. With this in mind, the GFBC believes that the principles set-out below should be included in new Ministerial guidelines about differential rates currently being considered for adoption by the Victorian Minister for Local Government across Victorian Councils.
1. The right to impose commercial and industrial differentials should only be allowed if the funds are applied to programs or services that will demonstratively benefit all commercial and industrial properties in Frankston. Ministerial guidelines need to clearly spell out when and how differential rates on commercial and industrial properties can be imposed.
2. Before imposing a commercial or industrial differential, local Councils should:
a. consult with their municipality’s business communities (such as the Greater Frankston Business Chamber) and subsequently provide to these business communities a detailed written description of the outcomes of that consultation;
b. Consider special charge schemes to progress particular business objectives instead of broad-brush increases on all properties; and
c. Ensure that rate-paying businesses trading in a municipality be given the right to vote in municipal elections.
The GFBC applauds Frankston Council for its $1.905 million spending on economic development during 2012-13. However, the Chamber submits that the money spent by Council on economic development by local government should be borne not just by business, but by all rate-payers wanting jobs for themselves and their families now and in to the future. Building a healthy economy is the responsibility of all tiers of government. Frankston has more unemployment than the average municipality in metropolitan Melbourne, and as a consequence its people have less income. Showing foresight, the Frankston Council Plan identifies an increase in jobs to be a priority.
At a local level, this means that the primary local government focus should be on identifying and providing the best environment for job and business growth. Applying a higher differential rate on commercial and industrial properties undermines this aim. Wrongly or rightly, the message it sends is that Governments do not understand the value of creating incentives that will enable businesses to establish and grow. It is wrong to assume that economic development only benefits business.
It is an aim that will benefit everyone who aspires to work, now and in the future. Therefore everyone should pay. Indeed, business already pays its fair share of government revenues. A growing number of small business operators say that every tier of government now treats business as a cash-cow to supplement their flagging bottom lines. Many of them believe that Governments rely on small business cash-registers too much when supplementing their budgets.
The overwhelming majority of employers in Frankston are small business operators- the businesses least able to absorb rising costs. In Frankston, small business forms the back-bone of employment. We believe that the Council’s economic policy needs to be pitched to encourage, not penalise, these businesses. The differential hits small business operators the hardest. Small business is big enough to be operating at a profit (however marginal). They are small enough to be too time constrained and poorly organised to publicly advocate their case, and therefore pose no public relations risk to Governments. They are therefore easy targets.
Special charge schemes should be preferred over differentials. The application of a differential that is greater than the average assumes that the affected class of ratepayers will receive a greater return on rates than that enjoyed by the average ratepayer. Take as an example the Carrum Downs Seaford Industrial Park. It boasts 22 per cent of the municipality’s employment and 40 per cent of its gross revenue, and is therefore one of the most significant generators of business income in the Frankston municipality. However, it does not receive the attention of Council services at the same rate as homes and businesses in residential areas. For instance, Council does not collect waste from the industrial estate. Even though waste collection is seen as a core Council service to its ratepayers, businesses in the Carrum Downs Industrial Estate must pay separately for this service.
In addition, the level of Council services varies from one type of business to another. Thus Frankston Council’s One Stop Squad does an exemplary job of beautifying and maintaining the street-scape environment for businesses operating on 23 shopping strips in residential areas and more recently the streets in the Central Activities Area. This attracts more shoppers, and therefore strengthens small business. By contrast, the street-scapes in the Carrum Downs Industrial Estate receive virtually no attention from Council.
The application of differential rates to both commercial and industrial properties should be qualified by requiring local Councils to provide evidence that all businesses within the municipality will benefit from the objective being pursued over and above the average level of service provision enjoyed by the rest of the municipality and its ratepayers. Councils wishing to progress particular business objectives that do not apply to all commercial and industrial properties should do so by applying targeted special charge schemes in consultation with their business communities.
A fundamental taxation principle, which is presently missing from the guidelines, should be included. No taxation without representation! The majority of local businesses are tenants, not landowners. Unlike residential tenants, commercial and industrial tenants are not entitled to a vote in local council elections in their own right. They should be. Without a vote, Councillors and Councils have less incentive to work with and for local business needs and aspirations. This can be rectified by giving commercial and industrial tenants a clearer entitlement to vote through the Victorian Local Government Act 1989. Every encouragement should be given to local decision makers to support and work with local businesses. The current voting process does not provide this encouragement. It should be changed.
The second part of our submission relates to efforts being made to hold a regional round-table to kick start business development in the south east region. We have big issues and big decisions that need business representatives and all levels of government working on the same page. Both Christine Richards and I have been working as a team to bring the key stakeholders together. I have been active connecting with smart or green businesses and Christine on connecting within government.
Frankston has great attributes for emerging and creative businesses that deliver smart and environmentally sound solutions. We want small footprint businesses with people who want an exceptional place in which to work and live. As a business with outstanding green credentials, businesses such as leading Plastic Recycler Replas have been leading the push for attracting other businesses like them to Frankston. The Greater Frankston Business Chamber sponsors a sub-group of Green businesses to promote those in the Frankston Community in order to attract likeminded businesses.
During her time as a Frankston Councillor Christine Richards connected with a high-level advisory group made up of business CEOs/executives advising the Minister for Small Business on two very important levels – how Victorian industries can work more sustainably; and what green industries could be attracted to Victoria.
Local governments need assistance to identify both the type of industries that would be suited to their localities and which companies to attract. The plan being developed is for a regional grouping of councils such as the South East Metropolitan Councils (Frankston, Dandenong, Kingston, Casey, Cardinia, Bass Shire, and Mornington Peninsula Shire Councils) to host a round-table bringing together relevant members of the ISWG, Department of Business and Industry and the CEOs of interested Councils in the South East region. This would allow for the exchange of knowledge by the experts that would help guide the CEOs and Economic Development Managers of local councils to be aware of and target appropriate opportunities for their municipalities. Incentives that would attract targeted businesses could also be considered.
All the relevant parties are keen on the concept and I have even got support from several Federal Ministers. With the support of the GFBC, it is planned to hold the round-table in the next few months. The GFBC will be an active participant in these discussions.
click here for latest Economic Development Committee Submission transcript