Tuesday, 22 February 2022
NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall is demanding a ‘better deal for the bush’, after a decision by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to cap general rates rises for all local councils within the electorate to just 0.7 per cent for the 2022-23 financial year.
Mr Marshall took to the floor of State Parliament today, giving notice of a motion condemning the IPART determination and urging the body urgently review its “paltry” increase figure.
In September 2021, IPART released a report reviewing the rate peg to include population growth.
Mr Marshall said small to medium-sized rural councils were being discriminated against, starved of revenue at a time when mandated wage rises are imminent and the cost of operating were sky-rocketing.
“This is a savage blow to our region’s local councils’ ability to deliver the services and infrastructure expected by their ratepayers and residents,” Mr Marshall said.
“I am in absolute disbelief that the independent regulator would make a decision which would see councils start the financial year with an externally-imposed deficit position.
“This paltry increase will not even provide councils with enough additional revenue to cover increases in fixed costs, such as award determined staff salary increases, rising fuel costs for road plant and equipment and other external statutory charges.
“At a 0.7 per cent rise, Armidale Regional Council is only forecast to increase rate revenue $131,000 next financial year.
“Taking into consideration the mandatory staff salary increase in the award, the wages bill will spike by $485,000 – the rate rise will only cover a quarter of that extra cost.
“At Inverell it’s a similar story. IPART’s determination will see only an additional $103,000 added to budget, yet it’s facing an increase to its wage bill of $353,000.
“For councils with a smaller rate base, like Gwydir Shire, the ramifications of the rate peg are severe. It forecasts only $58,000 in additional revenue will be added to its operating budget, which pales in comparison to the $295,000 in additional wage costs it faces next financial year.
“The sad thing is its rural people who will suffer when cuts have to be made to vitals services, community grants and infrastructure delivery – just so councils can keep their lights on.”
“This is not fair and it isn’t right – our country communities and rural councils deserve far better.”
Mr Marshall called on the IPART to immediately review its decision.
“This is the lowest rate peg in two decades and IPART must go back and look at how the determination will impact the health of regional communities, then adjust the rate accordingly,” he said.
“If there is no movement, I will be requesting the Minister for Local Government to take action to fix this broken system and establish a system which delivers fairness and equity for rural councils and their communities.”