MPs polled on rates system

BRIGHTON Council has sought the views of Lyons MHAs on the recommendations of Access Economics’ report that threatens Brighton’s fair rating system.

The report into Tasmania’s local government rating system was prepared for the Local Government Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and its recommendations, if accepted by government, would force the abandonment of Brighton’s current rating system which sees rate rises kept at or below the rate of inflation each year.

Mayor Tony Foster said Brighton’s fair rating system had enabled Council to keep rate rises at or below the rate of increases in the consumer price index and provide a guarantee that this would continue into the future, provided it could maintain the current system.

“However, this will not be possible should the Access Economics recommendation to restrict flat rating be implemented,” Cr Foster said.

Brighton Council asked the parliamentarians to respond to the following questions:

1. Do you support Brighton Council’s ‘Fair Rating System’ that keeps annual rate increases at or below the annual rate of inflation?

2. Do you oppose the recommendation contained in the Access Economics report into Tasmania’s local government rating system that, if implemented, would force Brighton Council to abandon its Fair Rating System?

3. Will you respect the wishes of the Brighton community that has expressed its view in an independent poll that it favours retention of the Council’s existing Fair Rating System?

“Following our representations, we received responses from Lyons Labor members Michael Polley and Rebecca White, Opposition Leader Will Hodgman on behalf of Liberals Rene Hidding and Mark Shelton, and from Greens MP Tim Morris. Minister for Local Government Bryan Green also provided an official government response,” Cr Foster said.

Mr Green said while the issue of flat rating was being considered at part of the review, he was yet to receive the final report from the steering committee established to consider the recommendations.

He undertook to work with local government to deliver rating outcomes that are fair, efficient and understandable for all ratepayers.

Cr Foster said Mr Polley advised that he supported Brighton’s fair rating system as well as the desire of the Brighton community to maintain this. He would not support any measure that would force Brighton to abandon this.

“Ms White provided advice similar to the minister’s without committing to ensure that Brighton’s fair rating system is protected,” Cr Foster said.

“The Liberal Opposition has taken the view that councils should have the flexibility to employ a rating system that satisfies the needs of their communities.

“Mr Hodgman said the Liberals would not support any rating system that would see ratepayers worse off. He said the Liberals had noted the strong will of the Brighton community to retain the fair rating system.”

Green Lyons MHA and spokesman on local government Tim Morris provided a detailed response that was not supportive of the Brighton fair rating system and demanded that his answers be published in full.  Because of space limitations, Brighton Community News could not accommodate his request.

Cr Foster said the response from some politicians pointed to a failure to understand Brighton’s fair rating system and the rate volatility suffered by many ratepayers in Tasmania.

“I have been involved in local government in Tasmania for more than 25 years and understand the impact that revaluations particularly have on council rates and increases suffered by ratepayers,” he said.

“We have effectively eliminated that volatility in Brighton and it is disappointing that this was not recognised by the deficient Access Economics report and appears not to be understood by Mr Morris and some other politicians.

“A recent independent survey shows our fair rating system enjoys the overwhelming support of Brighton ratepayers as well as majority support from ratepayers of other southern councils still using the AAV system.

“Further, we have guaranteed to continue to keep rates at, or below, the inflation rate into the future. However, we will be unable to do this should the State Government adopt the Access Economics recommendation to restrict flat rating.”

Cr Foster said this recommendation contained in the report was a recipe for rates’ volatility impacting on all Tasmanian ratepayers and would result in substantial increases for many Brighton residents.

“Obviously this is unacceptable to Council and to Brighton ratepayers and we will continue to oppose it,” he said.

“We have now written to our Franklin parliamentarians and will publish their responses in the next issue of Brighton Community News.”

Cr Foster said this was a fundamental issue for Brighton Council and its community.

“We have implemented a rating system that is fair, efficient and incorporates a rate differential that takes account of our community’s capacity to pay,” Cr Foster said.

“This works well for Brighton and is supported by our community. We do not want to dictate to other councils and, in the same way, we do not believe it fair that the Brighton community should suffer from the dictates of anonymous economic consultants or remote politicians.”