Monash council continues to charge higher rates to venues with pokies in operation as an act of punishment for the money they take from the community but the government is to put a stop to this activity. This financial year, the council has already taken in $200,000 worth of differential rates, calling the charges a stand against pokies.
Victorian local government minister Jeanette Powell is looking to block the council from enforcing these differential rates and says that the government has not had to this before. Last month the government published new guidelines that discouraged the use of differential rates on various venues, including those with pokies in operation, as part of a council’s budget. Monash council has continued to use them but has said that if the rates are dropped, the creation of a new budget is unlikely to be a requirement.
The council has no desire to give up differential rates though and councillors made it clear during a meeting on Tuesday that if a block on the application of them is implemented by Powell, they are prepared to take on the government and fight for them. At the meeting, councillors were in fact divided on the issue and, while Mayor Micaela Drieberg said she was proud that the council was standing up to the government, Oakleigh ward Councillor Theo Zographos warned that continuing to apply differential rates would be a big mistake for Monash.
Conversely, Mulgrave ward Councillor Paul Klisaris was in favour of Monash fighting back and said that the government might get the wrong message from Monash if the council backed down and dropped the rates. Drieberg was all in favour of the differential rates as it allowed the council to use that extra money as funding to combat problem gambling. But Zographos argued that Monash would be the only council in Victoria to have such a scheme in action during the 2013-14 financial year and that it was highly likely that the government would veto the plans.
But even with the rates in place, whether the funds garnered from them would be able to support a problem gambling research project or not is not clear. In order to continue, $200, 000 will need to be raised for it from the 2013-14 budget. A final decision has yet to be reached but until then the draft budget can be viewed on the council’s website.