Open letter – difficult choices

The following was emailed to all councillors on 15th March 2023. It’s now published as a open letter.

Dear Councillors,

I refer to a recent post from Councillor Landes, noting advice from the CEO that “difficult choices that will have to be made in respect of what services will be retained going forward and also in terms of outsourcing some services”.

Image credit: Facebook

I suggest that a good way to explore these issues is for council to invest in a Participatory Democracy process, to be held in 2023, similar to the process used to develop the Community Vision 2036, with 100 residents selected to be representative of our 100,000 population. The process could discuss:

  • What services should council offer?
  • What are the options for delivering those services, e.g. in-source or out-source, and how many staff would each option require?
  • What is the best option for Yarra, for each service?
  • What income does council need to deliver the desired services?
  • Does council have that income?
  • What other options are there to raise revenue?

Council does not have to commit to following the recommendations of the process, just as the Victorian State Government is not bound to follow the recommendations of Infrastructure Victoria, which also uses participatory democracy to explore complex issues.

I would like to see the community panel examine the proposal from Streets Alive Yarra to reform the pricing of on-street parking, which could raise $50 million per year by charging commuters (not residents) $10 per day to park in Yarra. Such pricing would:

  • Align with the new parking strategy from the City of Melbourne
  • Better align council with the principles of competitive neutrality (competing against private off-street car parking)
  • Act as a form of carbon tax (each vehicle that needs to park, has emitted CO2 while driving into Yarra)

With an extra $50 million per year, council could:

  • Eliminate all council debt 
  • Change the underlying deficit to an annual surplus
  • Stabilise all council services
  • Increase spending on capex

Further information is available at:


Jeremy Lawrence, RPEng

President, Streets Alive Yarra Inc.

Published 25th March 2023