New laws could spread rates harmonisation over four years

Central Coast Council is set to consider new legislation introduced by the State Government which could allow for rates harmonisation to take place over the next four years.

This could mean that Peninsula residents would not be slugged with a huge harmonisation rise this year.

The Local Government Amendment (Rating) Bill 2021 proposes options for councils to ensure a fairer and more flexible rating system for ratepayers.

Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, said the Bill would implement the Government’s response to IPART’s review of the rating system and a range of other changes.

“The package of reforms addressed in this Bill will ensure our rating system continues to be fair and equitable for both councils and ratepayers across the State,” Hancock said.

“Importantly, the Bill provides the option for 17 newly formed councils to harmonise their rates over the next four years, protecting ratepayers from excessive and sudden rate rises.

“The Bill also delivers on the NSW Government’s commitment to align rating income with population growth as part of the annual rate peg, enabling councils to provide better infrastructure and services to growing communities.”

But a Central Coast Council spokesperson said while the Bill would be open for the consideration of Council, there was a lot to consider.

“We need to understand impacts on all parties, including those due for a rate reduction since 2016,” the spokesperson said.

The Bill also includes provision for the optional payment of superannuation to councillors, which Hancock said would address a long-standing inequity and encourage greater participation in local government.

“By providing superannuation payments to councillors, we will address a key financial concern for women who are considering running for council,” she said.

“We know that councillor remuneration is a significant factor in encouraging more people – particularly women and younger people – to serve on their local council, which is why we have worked with the sector to ensure these needs are met.”

Hancock said the introduction of the Bill follows extensive consultation with the Local Government sector and the broader community.

The Bill also allows councils to levy special rates above the rate peg for infrastructure jointly funded with other levels of government, without IPART approval, and to create more flexible residential, business and farmland rating subcategories.

It also maximises voter participation in council elections by allowing the timeframe for receipt of postal votes to be extended.

Terry Collins