SCARY THOUGHT: Alstonville resident and ratepayer Jill Brennan fears rates will increase dramatically if the State Government rate cap is abolished.
SCARY THOUGHT: Alstonville resident and ratepayer Jill Brennan fears rates will increase dramatically if the State Government rate cap is abolished. Jacklyn Wagner

Proposal to end council rate-pegging sparks fears

ALSTONVILLE resident Jill Brennan fears council rates may get so expensive that families would have to go without.

Her fears come as NSW Premier Nathan Rees announced at a recent Local Government Association conference he was considering getting rid of the State Government-controlled cap.

It would mean there would be no limit to how much local councils could increase their rates each year.

Mrs Brennan, an independent retiree, said it was 'a scary thought'.

“Getting rid of the rate cap could lead to widespread rate rises, which would make it very difficult for most people, especially pensioners who are struggling to survive at all,” she said.

However, the announcement was praised by the Local Government Association, which said rate-pegging was not working.

Association president Genia McCaffery said councils and shires were under huge financial pressure to deliver services to their local residents, amid a global economic downturn.

“We're the only state in Australia that has rate-pegging and it's a failed policy,” Cr McCaffery said.

“There's no evidence in every other State that you have councils doing crazy things like quadrupling their rates.”

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver said rate-pegging was a dilemma for councils, saying on the one hand Ballina Shire was proud of having low rates, but on the other hand it restricted income.

“It is the State Government's prerogative, and Ballina council will comply with rate-pegging if needed,” he said. “If taken away, the council will probably try to keep rates as low as possible anyway.”

However, Alstonville Ratepayers' Association chairman Bob Wilson said that was no guarantee rates would not rise dramatically.

“We've got a pretty honest council (Ballina Shire) that tries to keep rates down, but getting rid of the cap would leave the door wide open, which is certainly a worry,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Rees said he supported removing rate-pegging, but not without councils seeking the views of their residents.



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