Politicians disagree with requested rate rise

Labor opposes Council rates rise

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) will make a decision this month on whether the Council should have a 15 per cent rate rise – on top of harmonisation of rates between the former Wyong and Gosford Councils.

Hundreds of people have sent in their responses to IPART – including our local politicians.

Federal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, State Member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, State Member for The Entrance, David Mehan, State Member for Wyong, David Harris and Senator for NSW, Deborah O’Neill, all wrote letters to IPART saying that they did not agree with a rate rise.

But what alternative ideas did they put forward?

The Chronicle asked the State MPs to reply, but only one did, Member for The Entrance, David Mehan, who said that his alternatives were in his IPART submission.

The Chronicle looked at all the letters to IPART sent in by the local politicians.

Federal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said in her letter that she would like to see asset sales and better resource management as an alternative to a rate rise.

Mehan said that he would like to see a longer period to pay down debt.

“I understand that the Administrator has advised that the rate increase sought is in part necessary to repay a bank loan taken to reimburse restricted funds wrongly spent by the Council,’’ he wrote.

“The intention is to move Council immediately to a surplus position and repay this loan over 10 years.

“This is an unnecessarily short term for a government entity and paying down debt over a longer period would reduce the need for a large rate increase.

“IPART, in determining a fair rate for Central Coast Council residents, should do so chiefly to ensure that the cost of existing Council services is covered and maintained.”

Crouch asked that IPART take into account people’s opposition to a rate rise; he did not give any alternatives.

Senator O’Neill asked for a State Government bailout.

“Significant and practical financial support from the State Berejiklian Government and Local Liberal member, Adam Crouch, should be actively sought and provided by the State Government in these extraordinary times, in order to prevent the foreseeable trauma and negative financial impacts of a substantial rate rise at this time,” she said.

Harris asked for a lower rate, if any, beyond harmonization, saying that he believed that the Council should ask for a water rate increase rather than using a rate increase to attempt to claw back the money it lost from IPART’s 2019 decision on water charges.

The IPART decision on water charges, which left Council with a $39M loss of revenue compared to the previous year, was noted by Administrator, DIck Persson, as one of the events that Council should have reacted to quickly.

In his 30-day interim report he said that by April 2020 it was clear that the primary challenge facing the Council was budget management.

“The IPART decision in May 2019, reducing revenue by $39M, was another point where alarm bells were not responded to with further savings measures,” he said.

The Council’s draft operational plan for next financial year notes that Council has to deal with a total of $45M in cost shifting from the State Government.

The plan noted that cost shifting was where the responsibility and/or costs of providing a certain service, asset or regulatory function, are shifted from a higher level of government to a lower level of government.

“The cost is shifted without providing corresponding funding or adequate revenue raising capacity,” the report stated.

“Cost shifting continues to place a significant burden on Council’s financial situation, to the tune of approximately $45M per annum.

“Despite the recognition of cost shifting and its adverse impacts on NSW Local Government there has been no change in funding for these costs.

“Examples of cost shifting include contributions to the NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Rural Fire Services and NSW State Emergency Service, lack of adequate funding for public libraries and the failure to fully reimburse Councils for mandatory pensioner rebates.”

None of the MPs noted the cost shifting in their IPART replies.

Merilyn Vale

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