By TONY FOSTER
I AM proud of Brighton’s leadership in keeping down rate increases and to report to you that the coming financial year will be the 19th in succession that we have maintained rises at or below the rate of inflation.
The next 12 months will see ratepayers paying a rate rise $8 a year, or just 15 cents a week next financial year following Council’s continued support of its fair rating policy. The rate rise is in line with Hobart’s annual CPI increase of 0.9 percent. The highest increase for a residential land block will be $2 for the year, which equates to just .04 cents a week.
The fact that our fair rating policy which features a flat rate for residential properties ensures that Brighton ratepayers continue to enjoy the lowest rates per population in Tasmania, and recognises our commitment to fairness and the efficient running of our Council.
We continue to provide a high level of services to our community, but we also recognise that people are facing cost of living pressures. We don’t want to add to these pressures, so in real terms, Brighton’s rates are the same as last year and the years prior to that.
What we have said to management is that this is the budget and you must work with it. And I must say our management team has responded magnificently. Indeed, we are actually able to enhance and expand the services we provide because Brighton is at the forefront of initiatives such as providing and sharing services with other councils and earning valuable income from this, as well as from our information technology business Microwise.
Certainly other councils and particularly ratepayers in other municipalities are taking note of what Brighton is doing. Some seven councils have already joined us in our Common Services Joint Venture and a number are at last looking at our fair rating system following pressure from their ratepayers.
My strong view is that holding down rate increases, as well as lifting local government efficiency provides the best means of combatting the push for forced council amalgamations. Essentially, Mayors, councillors and aldermen must now make the hard decisions and demand that their respective managements respond positively. That’s what Brighton has done and as I have said, our management team and our staff are doing their part.
As I said on announcing our rates’ decision, it is all about affordability for ratepayers and efficiency in local government. We must deliver if we want to avoid the prospect of the government of the day forcing councils to amalgamate in the mistaken belief that this alone can achieve efficiency. Bigger is not always better and in many instances can be far more expensive. Take TasWater for example where many ratepayers are now paying the single state authority considerably more for their water and sewerage services than they were previously paying councils for the same service.
Undoubtedly the early success of our initiative of sharing services with like-minded councils is providing a clear demonstration that there is a better way, that we can improve services and facilities for ratepayers and the community, and that we can achieve significant and long-term savings.
That fact, and the views of ratepayers as expressed in our independent survey of ratepayers as reported in this issue of Brighton Community News, provides the strongest possible incentive for us to continue to resist the amalgamation push.