Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By JON BAS­SETT

MOS­MAN Park Mayor Ron Nor­ris says res­i­dents will face greater fu­ture rates rises be­cause his coun­cil de­cided to cut the in­crease from pro­posed 4.7 per cent to 2.53 per cent last month.

“The lower rates shouldn’t have any im­pact on our planned works, but it pre­vents the re­build­ing of our in­fra­struc­ture re­serve funds,” Mr Nor­ris said.

He said cut­ting other ar­eas of the coun­cil’s pro­grams, or as­set sales, may be needed to build up re­serves, used in prepa­ra­tion for now failed merg­ers.

Last month, for­mer coun­cil­lor Colin Chom­ley said Mos­man Park’s pro­posed rates rise was only sur­passed by neigh­bour­ing Pep­per­mint Grove Coun­cil’s 7.9 per cent, which had been caused by the costs of a his­toric le­gal case and build­ing The Grove li­brary.

Coun­cil­lors ac­cepted Cr Brett Pol­lock’s mo­tion to re­duce by $120,000 the amount pro­posed to go to re­serves in the draft 2015-16 bud­get and in­tro­duce the lower rates rise.

Bud­get de­bate fol­lowed Premier Colin Bar­nett’s com­ments re­cently that rates rises should be at the CPI of about 2.25 per cent.

Mr Nor­ris said in­creases lim­ited to CPI would not al­low coun­cils to start new projects or re­plen­ish re­serves af­fected by the failed merger process. How­ever, Mos­man Park will not fol­low the City of Bayswa­ter in no­ti­fy­ing res­i­dents their rates will help re­pay spend­ing on merg­ers that had not been re­funded by the State Gov­ern­ment.

Mos­man Park claims it can prove it spent at least $150,000, with about $300,000 of no­tional coun­cil staff time.

Bayswa­ter sup­ported join­ing Bassendean Coun­cil, parts of Stir­ling and Swan coun­cils and Dianella and spent $1.2 mil­lion be­fore Mr Bar­nett can­celled the merger process in Fe­bru­ary. Bayswa­ter’s 2015-2016 bud­get bul­letin ex­plained the use of rates to re­cover costs.

Bayswa­ter Mayor Syl­van said he would not spec­u­late if his coun­cil’s 3.7 per cent rates rise would have been greater if merg­ers had gone ahead but he ex­pected ratepay­ers and rates would have ben­e­fit­ted from “ef­fi­cien­cies and sav­ings” in fu­ture years.

RATE cap­ping has been placed on the agenda by the State Gov­ern­ment in the past month in re­ac­tion to per­ceived ex­ces­sive rate rises from some Perth metropoli­tan lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

It has been floated in the past as an idea to place down­ward pres­sure on rates. How­ever, the present cap in place in NSW has ad­versely im­pacted the stan­dard of com­mu­nity in­fra­struc­ture.

Man­age­ment and main­te­nance of as­sets is greatly af­fected, roads and com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties suf­fer, and a de­lay on their up­keep re­sults in more costly re­place­ment later.

Cap­ping rates is a quick and easy way to score po­lit­i­cal points with the wider com­mu­nity.

How­ever, it does not rep­re­sent sound fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, plac­ing mas­sive de­mands on lo­cal gov­ern­ment to de­liver the many ser­vices, fa­cil­i­ties, works and projects the com­mu­nity ex­pects and needs but with less money in a tight­en­ing fis­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are highly re­spon­sive to their com­mu­nity needs and the days of the sec­tor be­ing all about just rates and rub­bish are long gone.

Man­ag­ing the long-term fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity of lo­cal gov­ern­ments con­tin­ues to be a chal­lenge amidst the re­duc­tion and freez­ing of Fed­eral grants, as well as in­creases to State charges such as the waste levy and street light­ing costs, which in turn is ab­sorbed by coun­cils.

It is true that some smaller lo­cal gov­ern­ments are fac­ing a bat­tle to re­main fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able and this has led to higher rate rises, but pol­icy levers such as rate cap­ping also af­fect the big­ger, vi­able lo­cal gov­ern­ments who have ef­fec­tively man­aged and main­tained in­fra­struc­ture, ser­vices and pro­grams while en­sur­ing rate in­creases are min­imised.

I firmly be­lieve that lo­cal gov­ern­ment bud­get­ing and rat­ing is a rig­or­ous process that would hold up to any third-party scru­tiny but rather than im­pos­ing rate caps, the State Gov­ern­ment should work to­gether with our sec­tor to achieve pos­i­tive out­comes for our joint con­stituents, lo­cal ratepay­ers and res­i­dents.

Ul­ti­mately, lo­cal gov­ern­ment scru­tiny oc­curs ev­ery two years at the bal­lot box where elec­tors ex­er­cise their right and judge the per­for­mance of their coun­cil – this is called democ­racy, not rate cap­ping.

Troy Pickard, Aus­tralian Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment

As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent

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