Richmond rates highly in survey

By Alex Easton

RICHMOND Valley Council had the lowest residential rate in its group of councils despite recording the highest percentage increase in rates and charges in NSW in 2005/06, a new report reveals.

The Department of Local Government's Comparative Information on NSW Local Government Councils 2005/06 was released this week and shows Richmond Valley had an average residential rate of $445.37, well below the average of $666.

However, the report also shows the council levied the biggest percentage increase in NSW in its overall fees and charges that year: 19.35 per cent.

Council corporate services director Wayne Halcrow said that was the year the council was forced to dramatically lift its water and sewerage charge after learning the State Government would not be helping with the upgrade of the Evans Head sewage treatment plant, which neighbours Salty Lagoon.

Mr Halcrow said work on the Evans plant was now finished and funds from the increased charge would next be used on a $5 million project to connect Broadwater to the improved treatment plant.

He said the council, which last year was criticised by the Casino Residents Association over a 10 per cent rate increase, would not back away from the raised water and sewerage charges. He said the low average residential rate showed the council's need for higher rates.

The report, which was released yesterday, divides councils into groups based on size and population. Lismore, Byron, Ballina, Richmond Valley, and Clarence Valley are all categorised as Group 4 councils. Tweed Shire is in the bigger Group 5 category, while Kyogle is in the Group 10 category for smaller regional councils.

The report reveals Ballina Shire Council as spending among the least per person in NSW on community services, even though it spent in the upper band of its group in per capita spending on leisure and recreation services.

Ballina spent the biggest chunk of its budget for Group 4 councils in proportion to development costs in the shire on legal action (19.1 per cent). Lismore was among the best performers in avoiding legal action, spending only 0.8 per cent of the proportion spent on development on legal action.

To see the report, go to !!www.dlg.nsw.gov.au!



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