‘The last thing we need’ – Peninsula Chamber

Central Coast Council Acting CEO, Rik Hart

Peninsula Chamber of Commerce says a rate rise is “the last thing” the Coast needs, as Central Coast Council invites residents to have their say on a proposed rise of 10-15 per cent this year.

Council has notified the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of its intention to apply for a Special Variation (SV) of either a one-off 10 per cent remaining in the rate base for seven years or a one-off 15 per cent, remaining permanently in the rate base, inclusive of the 2021/22 rate peg of 2 per cent.

Acting CEO Rik Hart said he understood community concern about paying more rates, but this was needed for Council’s long-term financial security and ongoing service delivery which would benefit everyone.

“We have been open with the community about our financial situation and are taking significant steps to help our bottom line – we are selling assets, reducing staff numbers and materials and contracts, reducing the capital works program, looking at fees and charges and we have been able to secure further loans,” Hart said.

“The last thing we want to do is put more burden on our ratepayers.

“But if we do not have a substantial increase in our rate income as well, then even harder decisions will need to be made.

“For our community that would mean a significant reduction or even elimination of services that they need and rely on us to provide.

 “Our first priority has to be the repayment of restricted funds, which were unlawfully used, so that does not become a burden for future generations.

“This is a conversation our community has to have, and we want to hear from as many residents and ratepayers as possible.”

But President Matthew Wales says the Peninsula chamber has serious concerns over the proposed rise.

“The Peninsula business community is bitterly disappointed and deeply concerned with the staggering operating losses of over $200M and accumulated debt of $565M racked up by Central Coast Council,” Wales said.

“These are numbers that the ordinary business person is struggling to come to terms with (along with) the potential implications this will have on the delivery of services to the business community,

“And now the Administrator is proposing a rate hike of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent to try and claw back revenue to maintain essential services.

“We are already seeing a dramatic drop in maintenance not only in our town centres but also across our community including parks and reserves.

“Everywhere you look we have grubby streets, overgrown parks and badly maintained roads.

“Landlords and business operators are already doing it tough coming out of the COVID-19 disaster so the last thing we need is a rate hike that will add a further layer of financial burden on business people.

“Maybe the Administrator needs to put the cleaners through the Council organisation, sell off surplus land and introduce greater efficiencies before slugging the ratepayer with a massive rate hike.”

Information on the options being considered for an SV as well as a survey for ratepayers and residents can be found at yourvoiceourcoast.com

Council will consider a report about the Special Variation options, inclusive of community feedback, at its meeting on February 8.

Meanwhile IPART has announced it has received 2,700 direct submissions (at December) from concerned residents – the highest number of submissions ever received on a single topic.

IPART will continue to accept submissions until March 1.

Terry Collins