Plains shire scraps huge rate rise

LIVERPOOL Plains Shire Council (LPSC) has warned residents to expect a reduction in services after sensationally scrapping plans to jack-up rates by 19 per cent next year following a public outcry.

The decision came after an independent survey of 200 ratepayers revealed 61 per cent did not support the dramatic rise, which was set to come into effect for the 2014-15 financial year. Instead, the cash-strapped council now proposes to increase rates by 12.5 per cent and attempt to recoup the $400,000 budget shortfall by making further savings in its general operations.

LPSC mayor Ian Lobsey said the decision was made despite management telling councillors that any deviation from the proposed 19 per cent rise would “jeopardise” its attempts to remain a stand-alone council. “Council must improve its long-term financial sustainability if it is to survive in the future and unless additional recurrent grants ... are made available to council, more rate increases will be inevitable,” Cr Lobsey said.

“Council instructed management to seek out further savings in council’s operations on top of the 5 per cent they achieved in the last financial year and to re-jig its long-term delivery plans to defer certain projects to later dates.

“Management reported that further cuts would probably also impact on the level of service that council can deliver in certain areas and if this was the case, the community needs to be engaged to gain feedback on which areas cuts should take place in.”

The decision means Werris Creek and Quirindi residents will pay on average 64c and 71c respectively a week less than under the initial proposal. Werris Creek resident Nicole Smith said although she was pleased councillors had listened to the community’s concerns over the massive increase, the threat of losing even more services was worrying.

“I don’t think they really had much of a choice (but to reduce the size of the rise), but I want to know what they are doing with the money that they get to begin with,” she said. “It’s a little bit like they’re trying to make us feel guilty for not wanting to pay so much more in our rates.”

Cr Lobsey said the 12.5 per cent rise and extra savings would only “moderately improve” the council’s “weak” financial position.

“These are not easy decisions but council has the responsibility to manage finances and services in the best interests of the whole community,” he said.

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