CALLS for council amalgamations by big city property owners are not in the best interests of Brighton ratepayers, according to Brighton Mayor Tony Foster.
The group Tasmanians for Reform, a front for the Property Council that represents big city building and property owners, has called on the Government to force council amalgamations in the hope that it will bring down city rates.
The Property Council’s push is aimed at achieving rate ‘equalisation’ so that the rates on their city office buildings and shopping centres are reduced with householders paying more. For example, under such a model for greater Hobart, the rates of Hobart, Clarence, Glenorchy, Kingborough would be averaged to strike a combined rate.
Cr Foster said because Brighton enjoyed the lowest per capita rates in Tasmania, equalisation as a result of council amalgamation could see average residential rates in the municipality rise by up to 40 percent.
“Tasmanians for Reform have joined in the election campaign demanding that the political parties force council amalgamations so the big property barons can save on their rates.
“This is unacceptable to Brighton ratepayers and I urge them to contact their MPs and political candidates in the forthcoming State election and ask them their views on forced council amalgamations,” Cr Foster said.
“Make no mistake, rate equalisation means rate increases for Brighton residents and we need to tell our members of Parliament that we will not accept this.”
Cr Foster said the most recent experience in Queensland showed that rather than reduce rates, the costs of amalgamation, higher council salaries and expenses had driven up rates by more than 18 per cent in one outer Brisbane municipality.
“The Queensland experience was so bad that councils there are now de-amalgamating.
“Brighton Council has studied the likely impact of amalgamation on the Brighton community and ratepayers, and has taken advice from one of Australia’s foremost experts on local government reform, Professor Brian Dollery, Director of the Centre for Local Government at the University of New England,
“This advice shows that rate equalisation as a result of amalgamation could increase Brighton’s rates by up to 40 percent. Amalgamation is not right for Brighton, it is not fair to ratepayers and will add significantly to cost of living pressures.”
Cr Foster said councils were already able to achieve valuable efficiencies and savings through shared services and purchasing and many were doing this. Brighton was providing services for a number of councils and achieving significant efficiencies and cost reductions.
“Brighton Council is debt free and leads the State in local government efficiency. Brighton currently has the lowest rates per capita in Tasmania and operates its ‘Fair Rating System’ that commits to annual rate increases no greater than CPI.
“The push for amalgamation is aimed at benefiting the vested interests of big property owners, particularly those in central Hobart and Launceston.
“But Brighton will not accept any proposal that disadvantages our ratepayers and residents, or that ignores our low rate regime and the significant achievements of Brighton over the past decade.
“Now is the time for our residents to reinforce that message to their MPs and State election candidates,” Cr Foster said.
• See Mayor’s column