State pledge on our rates system

THE State Government has promised to legislate before the end of this year to confirm its support for Brighton’s fair rating system.

This follows a major lobbying effort by Mayor Tony Foster and the Council to protect Brighton’s system that has provided rate stability for the community and ensured that rate increases are kept at or below the rate of inflation.

The Government had introduced amendments to the Local Government Act that could have undermined Brighton’s rating system. It was unclear under the legislation, if Brighton’s system based on a flat residential rate, with a differential based on capacity to pay, would be allowed to continue.

However, after strenuous representations lead by Mayor Foster, the Government has provided verbal assurances that it supports the approach taken by the Brighton Council to rating and its outcomes. It has undertaken to legislate before the end of 2011 to clear up any uncertainty.

Cr Foster said the outcome was a victory for common sense and it would ensure that Brighton’s fair rating system was placed on a firm legislative footing.

“Brighton Council has been employing its fair rating methodology for the past five years, having first introduced it in the 2007-2008 financial year,” he said.

“We have, in fact, maintained annual rate increases at, or below, the rate of inflation for the past 15 years, an achievement no other Tasmanian council can boast, with a differential for the Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsman Cove suburbs, in recognition of capacity to pay.

“Our rates for 2011-12 will increase by just 2.9 percent, at a time when other municipalities are imposing increases up to three times this. Brighton’s rate increase represents $20 a year or 40 cents a week for a residential property.

“Our fair rating system enjoys the overwhelming support of Brighton ratepayers and having now maintained this system for some five years, we are determined to continue it into the future.”

Cr Foster said despite Brighton’s representation, the Local Government Act amendments passed the House of Assembly with the Labor Government and Greens combining to defeat a Liberal amendment introduced by Lyons Member Rene Hidding that would have confirmed the Brighton fair rating system.

When the Brighton amendment was introduced in the Legislative Council and strongly supported by Liberal Vanessa Goodwin and Independents Ruth Forrest and Jim Wilkinson, the Government was forced to concede that it needed to bring in new legislation to clear up any concerns.

The Leader for the Government in the Legislative Council, Doug Parkinson provided a commitment to address Brighton Council’s concerns.

Mr Parkinson said the Government supported the outcomes of Brighton’ rating policies for its community.

“We want to make sure that it is placed on a firm legislative foundation. The current amendment does not do that, but the bill we bring back before the end of the year will,” he said.

Cr Foster said the issue was of great importance to Brighton Council and its ratepayers.

“We will now wait on the Government to develop the promised appropriate legislative amendments to clear up any uncertainty.

“The Government’s commitment provides some comfort that it supports our rating policy and we will continue to promote what we have established is the best and fairest rating policy for Brighton.”

Cr Foster said he was sure other Tasmanian councils would look to follow Brighton’s lead once the Government enacted its legislation.

3 thoughts on “State pledge on our rates system”

  1. How can a flat rate be ‘fair’ when the poor subsidise the rich. The only reason your rate is ‘largely accepted’ is because of a general lack of understanding by ratepayers of how their rates are calculated.

  2. Brighton Council submitted the following response:
    Previously, Councils collected the bulk of their income based on the value of people’s homes. Many Councils and economists now argue that income earned is a far better method of recognising one’s capacity to pay than the value of your home. Not only Councils, but all service provision organisations such as Aurora and Southern Water are moving towards a flat charge and user pays environment.

    Brighton Council does however recognise the special needs of the lower socio economic suburbs of Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsmans Cove. These three suburbs are charged a lower flat rate than the rest of the community. In fact, residents of typical Department of Housing home in Bridgewater pay less in rates than a similar Department of Housing property in other municipalities.

    Brighton Council not only has a flat residential rate but unlike other councils it has a commitment to keep rate increases to CPI. Brighton Council is recognised as having the lowest rates per capita in Tasmania.

  3. What is the difference in the rates paid on the highest valued property and the lowest valued property? Not much. Therefore the lower valued property (and possibly the lowest income earner) is subsidising the highest valued property (higher income earner). This is not fair, what you are doing is shifting the rating burden from the rich to the poor.

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