Gwydir council IPART rejects rate increase

GWYDIR Shire Council is reeling after the rejection of its bid for a 32 per cent rate rise, a key plank in its strategy to withstand the threat of a fresh round of local government amalgamations.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) announced yesterday it had approved a temporary increase for just one year of the council’s application to permanently increase its general income by 32.25 per cent over the next two years.

IPART chairman Peter Boxall said one increase of 15 per cent had been allowed, instead of the two consecutive 15 per cent increases the council had requested. This amount includes the 2.4 per cent rate peg.

Mayor John Coulton was a disappointed man yesterday, saying the council had already held a meeting with local stakeholders and would begin a fresh round of community consultations next week in a bid to secure the full rate variation.

He said it was now more important than ever to convince the community of the need for the rates increase, as the NSW government’s Fit for the Future deadline loomed and the pressure increased on the council to prove it had the financial base to stand alone.

Mr Boxall said IPART had only approved half the requested amount because the council had not been able to “demonstrate the affordability of the cumulative increase and the community’s willingness to pay”.

Cr Coulton agreed that despite considerable consultation with the community, the rate rise proposal had not been popular, with the Warialda community even submitting a petition to IPART opposing the move.

He said it was unfortunate the council had had to apply for such a large rise, but there’d been no increase above the allowable rate pegging amount for some years, a decision that had now come back to bite it.

The community had to understand though, Cr Coulton said, that the rise was not only vital to maintaining basic operations and services, it was now absolutely crucial for maintaining independence.

“We’re going back to the people now … and with talk of mergers it becomes a much more serious business than it has been,” he said.

“We have a job to prove our sustainability … it’s not just about losing services now.”

Because IPART had approved the Gwydir’s increase on a temporary basis, rates would reduce again in 2016/17, Mr Boxall said.

He said it was now open for the council to re-apply for a special variation in for 2016/17 following more consultation with the community.

Gwydir Shire was one of22 councils that made an application for a special rates variation, with the other 21 approved in full.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Guiyang Sauna Net.