All Labor politicians to oppose an “amalgamation tax”

Wyong MP, David Harris

Local Labor State and Federal MPs and Senators have vowed to oppose any attempt to introduce a 10 percent rate rise by Central Coast Council, calling it an “amalgamation tax”.

The Coast’s four State MPs, David Harris (Wyong), David Mehan (The Entrance), Yasmin Catley (Swansea) and Liesl Tesch (Gosford), together with Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride and Senator Deborah O’Neill, said that residents should not have to pay for the Liberal Government’s failed Council amalgamation.

“We oppose any attempt that the Government might make to claw back funds through higher rates to fix structural issues created by their amalgamation experiment,” said Wyong MP, David Harris, who also is Shadow Minister for Central Coast.

“This is nothing more than an amalgamation tax on local residents and businesses,” he said.

This comes after a Council meeting on November 26 when Administrator, Dick Persson, accepted the Motion to go to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) with a request for a 10 percent increase in rates for seven years.

The 10 percent includes the two percent increase already allowed by IPART.

Persson said it was confirmed in a recent meeting with IPART that the window of opportunity to apply for the rate rise would soon close, so Council would begin the process, even though a decision had not been made and no figure for any possible rate rise had been set.

That decision would be made after he handed down his report into Council’s financial woes on Wednesday, December 2. (see separate story)

During the November 26 meeting to adopt the IPART application, Persson discussed the reasons that contributed to Council’s financial issues with the two public forum speakers.

When speaker, Patrick Gallagher, said that increasing rates should, as a matter of general principle, be the last resort in the campaign to return Council to solvency, Persson interjected and said he agreed.

Gallagher and the first speaker, Tony Kirby, who is president of the Gwandalan and Summerland Point Peninsula Improvement Group (GASPPIG), both said that the rate harmonisation between the former Gosford and Wyong areas should be finalised before any rates were increased.

Persson said harmonisation would be in place by the middle of 2021, however, rates harmonisation would not increase overall total rates that Council collected, it would only change the amount some people paid.

Persson explained that Council needed to get back to have a surplus and it’s income came from rates, fees, charges and grants.

Central Coast Labor MPs say residents do not have the capacity to pay higher rates to bail out the NSW Government’s failed amalgamation business model.

“Recent research (by LSI Consulting) has demonstrated that the financial burden on amalgamated councils has resulted in the 20 amalgamated councils losing $1.03B in three years, and ratepayers facing hikes in rates and cuts in services,” said Shadow Minister for Central Coast, David Harris.

“Our regional economy if fragile, businesses and households are struggling through the first recession in 30 years, and we need to grow jobs by attracting people and business, not increase the burden and create disincentives,” he said.

Sue Murray and Merilyn Vale

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