Corangamite mayor says rate cap plan flawed

CORANGAMITE Shire mayor Chris O’Connor has used his monthly report to slam the state opposition’s proposal to impose a cap on council rate increases. 

Cr O’Connor said the plan, announced last month to force councils to cap rate increases at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, had shortcomings, was flawed and could compromise some council services.

“I would strongly advise the Victorian Labor Party to reconsider this flawed policy,” Cr O’Connor said.  

“Council is already asked to do much more with less and the introduction of rate capping would only further inhibit council’s ability to deliver quality services to our communities.” 

Cr O’Connor said capping rates at CPI seemed fair in isolation, but the reality was that the local government CPI rate was much higher than the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ rate. 

“The reasons for this are numerous and come from both our community’s expectations and the state government, who set most of the rules and regulations under which we carry on our operations,” he said. 

“Local government also relies on federal government grants and, just this month, we have lost an estimated $1.6 million over the next three years.

“Ratepayers expect a certain level of service. 

“They expect roads to allow them to do business. They expect services to be provided for young children through to the elderly, with aged care and meals on wheels.

“They also expect facilities that promote recreation, leisure, arts and culture. 

“That’s fine, but what if councillors made a tough decision to stop providing some of these services?” 

He said it cost council $11.80 every time somebody walked through the gate of one of its swimming pools and, if it was any other business, that cost would be rationalised. 

“But there is an expectation of our community to have access to swimming pools and they are willing to pay for it,” he said. “The state government also once contributed two thirds of library funding. Now it provides just one-third, but the community still expects that same service.” 

Other items on the agenda at tonight’s council meeting include the Princetown and Darlington community plans, a draft domestic wastewater management plan and the council’s rating strategy for 2014-2017. The meeting starts in the Killara Centre in Camperdown at 7pm. 

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