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.