Coun­cil seeks rates ad­vis­ers

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Hor­sham Ru­ral City Coun­cil has called for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est for a new rates strat­egy ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee fol­low­ing ex­ten­sive com­mu­nity con­cern about an ‘un­fair and in­equitable’ sys­tem.

Coun­cil­lors have been di­vided over the 2018-19 bud­get and rat­ing strat­egy, which in­cludes an av­er­age 11.8 per­cent rate in­crease for the farm sec­tor and a 0.6 per­cent de­crease for the res­i­den­tial sec­tor.

Two coun­cil­lors fought to re­duce the ru­ral sec­tor’s farm-rate bur­den, with sev­eral farm­ers re­port­ing rate in­creases of be­tween 30 and 60 per­cent based on early val­u­a­tion es­ti­mates.

Coun­cil­lors en­gaged in at-times heated de­bates through­out the bud­get process be­fore adopt­ing the doc­u­ments as pre­sented.

Mayor Pam Clarke said in June that ‘to be asked to sig­nif­i­cantly change our rat­ing sys­tem and bud­get af­ter the con­sul­ta­tion process has been com­pleted is just not pos­si­ble or ap­pro­pri­ate’.

“Coun­cil has com­mit­ted to do a full rate re­view prior to the next bud­get and as­sess the im­pli­ca­tions any shift in our rat­ing strat­egy will have on each sec­tor of our com­mu­nity,” she said.

At a meet­ing on Mon­day night, coun­cil­lors voted to pro­ceed with a Rates Strat­egy Re­view Pro­ject, to be com­pleted ahead of the coun­cil’s 2019-20 bud­get.

Res­i­dents can ap­ply for a po­si­tion on a nine-per­son com­mit­tee that will work along­side an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant.

The com­mit­tee will play a key role in shap­ing the way rates are cal­cu­lated.

Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Su­nil Bhalla said the re­view was in re­sponse to strong opin­ion ex­pressed from the farm­ing sec­tor af­ter the 2018-19 rates strat­egy con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod had closed.

“Coun­cil voted not to make any sig­nif­i­cant ad­just­ments to the rates strat­egy un­til suf­fi­cient con­sul­ta­tion had been con­ducted with all sec­tors of the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“It would have been un­fair to im­pose rate rises on the res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial sec­tors with­out con­sult­ing with them.

“In­stead, coun­cil re­solved to have a de­tailed and in­de­pen­dent re­view un­der­taken where ev­ery­one can share their opin­ion.

“A key out­come is to achieve a fair and eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of the rate bur­den across all sec­tors of the com­mu­nity.”

Mr Bhalla said he hoped the re­view would help clar­ify de­tails in the cur­rent rate strat­egy.

“Some peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that it’s a closed sys­tem, so if you want some­one to pay less, some­one else has to pay more in or­der to main­tain coun­cil ser­vices each year,” he said.

“Is­sues of fair­ness and eq­uity

“Some peo­ple do not un­der­stand that it’s a closed sys­tem, so if you want some­one to pay less, some­one else has to pay more in or­der to main­tain coun­cil ser­vices each year ” – Su­nil Bhalla

are judg­men­tal in na­ture, com­plex and sub­jec­tive.

“The mat­ter is not sim­ple or black and white and con­sid­er­a­tion needs to be given to the rel­a­tive ques­tions of what is fair and what is not.

“Fair­ness will dif­fer depend­ing upon an in­di­vid­ual’s view on mat­ters.

“It’s about hear­ing what peo­ple have to say.”

Mr Bhalla en­cour­aged peo­ple from all sec­tors of the com­mu­nity to ap­ply for the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

“A di­verse com­mit­tee will be sought that pro­vides both gen­der eq­uity and ages rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the gen­eral adult pop­u­la­tion,” he said.

“The com­mit­tee will, as far as is prac­ti­cal, be com­posed of rep­re­sen­ta­tives pro­por­tion­ate to the share of rates paid by each sec­tor.”

Mr Bhalla said the com­mit­tee would meet be­tween four and six times from Oc­to­ber 1, 2018 to De­cem­ber 7, 2018.

Ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est close at 5pm on Septem­ber 10 and can be com­pleted on­line at or in per­son at Hor­sham Civic Cen­tre in Roberts Av­enue.

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