Rates in­quiry tim­ing queried

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By JON BAS­SETT

WA Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Lynne Craigie has warned of run-down parks, halls and pave­ments if WA fol­lows New South Wales and caps rate rises, af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced it is con­sid­er­ing the strat­egy last week.

“When NSW ex­am­ined the im­pact of rate cap­ping on lo­cal gov­ern­ments in that State, there was clear ev­i­dence of a mas­sive run­down of coun­cil in­fra­struc­ture as fund­ing shifted away from as­set re­place­ment and main­te­nance to un­der­write op­er­at­ing costs,” Mrs Craigie said.

In 2013, the NSW In­de­pen­dent Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Re­view Panel found rate peg­ging had cre­ated a $7 bil­lion back­log of coun­cil in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, com­mu­nity ex­pec­ta­tions of in­def­i­nite low rates and coun­cils fear­ing to bor­row in case they could not raise enough rates for re­pay­ments.

Mrs Craigie com­pared WA coun­cils’ 5 per cent rates rises with the debt-laden State Gov­ern­ment in­creas­ing its Emer­gency Ser­vices Levy by 10.6 per cent, street light­ing 7.5 per cent and wa­ter charges 6 per cent, be­fore the rises were passed on to ratepay­ers this year.

She ques­tioned the in­quiry’s tim­ing six months af­ter Premier Colin Bar­nett shut down merger talks.

“This ap­proach begs the ques­tion of what the State’s true agenda might be, and whether the ques­tions are about lo­cal gov­ern­ment,” she said. “I'm ab­so­lutely cer­tain that rate cap­ping doesn’t hold the an­swers.”

Last month, res­i­dents call­ing for fi­nan­cial strin­gency made Mos­man Park Coun­cil cut its rate rise from 4.7 per cent to 2.53 per cent, caus­ing Mayor Ron Nor­ris to warn that coun­cils may sell as­sets or cut ser­vices if rates are capped.

“Ap­par­ently, in­creased charges are only al­lowed if you are the State Gov­ern­ment, and in the case of Mos­man Park about 25 per cent of our rate in­crease this year was needed to cover in­creased Gov­ern­ment charges,” he said.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Tony Simp­son said di­a­logue was needed af­ter coun­cils had in­creased rates more than 8 per cent on av­er­age in the past decade.

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