Councils should be given a greater say in how much it can raise in rate revenue, says the council general manager.
Warwick Bennett was commenting on the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal's (IPART) recent announcement of a 2.6 per cent rate peg for 2020/21. It means councils can only raise an extra 2.6pc in general rate revenue, which Mr Bennett says is "par for the course." Last year it was 2.3pc.
But the GM argued the cap's imposition was an "old-fashioned" method.
"I agree, if it gets over five or six per cent, there should be some type of external review to ensure you're following processes but the best external process is the community," he said.
"They'll tell council if the rates are unaffordable. Yes, we'll live within the 2.6pc but really, this is 2019 and you're dealing with a lot of professional people around a table who don't need to be continually told how to manage their business."
He pointed out there was no such limit on the State's cost shifting on to local government, without commensurate funding. The council will pay an extra $100,000 for the emergency services levy annually. The State Government deferred it this year following an outcry from councils about its timing, after they had set budgets.
Councils will also have to monitor land contamination from underground fuel tanks, with State assistance running out after three years. They are also facing higher election costs, albeit with some State assistance in the first year, following an IPART report.
The Canberra Joint Regional Organisation of Councils, of which Goulburn Mulwaree is a member, will take up these issues in a round of Sydney Parliament House meetings on October 16 to 17.
IPART Chair Dr Paul Paterson said the 2.6pc took into account higher employee costs and rising construction costs. Some of these increases had been offset by falling telecommunications, IT and energy costs, Dr Paterson said.
The rate peg is set by IPART each year based on changes in 26 components in the Local Government Cost Index (LGCI).
Councils will be invited to participate in updating the LGCI in November.
"IPART has recognised that councils are facing cost pressures from increases in the Emergency Services Levy, which is one of the cost components in the index," Dr Paterson said.
"Bringing forward councils' ability to recoup costs associated with the Emergency Services Levy to the year after they are incurred, instead of two years later, will help councils adjust to these costs."
While the rate cap affects overall income, councils have discretion on how they will disperse it across the rate categories.
Those wishing to increase it above the 2.6pc are required to consult with their communities before applying to IPART for a special variation.
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